By Hannah Stutts '19
Have you ever been on a road trip? Now, I’m not talking about a quick three-hour trip, I’m talking about eight hours or more. Well, this past summer, I took a road trip to Los Angeles, California. We drove 2,019 miles in more than 30 hours, and for those of you who know my mom and my brother, Pate, you know it was quite an adventure.
Now, you are probably wondering, “Why would you take a road trip all the way to LA?” Well, it was the week of July 4th, and Pate’s agent was adamant that Pate come out to the West Coast. For those of you who don't know, my brother and I are both dancers, and we have agents out in LA. The way this works is, they bring us opportunities that are either direct books or auditions. Based on the time or travel expenses, we either accept or decline, and this audition was one that our agent felt that Pate couldn't pass up.
After hours of scouring for plane tickets and short of spending a small fortune, my mom looked at us and said, “Kids, were going on a road trip!” Oh, and by the way, my dad, Jay, upon hearing the news we were driving, declined taking the trip. So my mom, my brother and I, and a very unlikely friend that I’ll tell you more about later, headed West.
The first several hours were like any normal road trip. We were all on our phones while my mom drove. We traveled through Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas. About the time we hit the Oklahoma state line, my mom decided that it was time to give up the cell phones and pay attention to uncharted territory that included places we had never seen but had just flown over while listening to her own rendition of “Home on the Range."
We then continued through Oklahoma and across Texas, where we saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever witnessed. I was also captivated by the miles and miles of windmills. It is amazing what you can see if you just put your phone down. It was about this time that we realized that taking this road trip was the best idea my mom had ever had. We have probably flown to California more than 30 times and have been blessed to see all four corners of the country, but in all that travel, I never realized how beautiful our country was until we got out of an airport and just started
It is amazing what you can see if you just put your phone down.
Our second day of driving started with three of us experiencing awful altitude sickness through New Mexico and Arizona. After a big dose of Dramamine, we all slept almost the rest of the way, which left my mom to drive the Mojave Desert all alone. Now before I bore you with any more details of this trip, I promise I have a point. Just hang with me.
Because of the audition, the trip was very rushed. We made the 30-hour drive in two days. Once we arrived in LA, just in time for the audition, it lasted less than 30 minutes and ended with Pate getting cut because he was too tall for the job. We spent the next few days sightseeing, visiting friends, eating at our favorite restaurants and, of course, getting in a little training while we were there.
It came time to head home, and instead of a very desolate drive across the dessert in 120 degree heat and lots of construction, my mom decided to reroute us an entirely different way. This would afford us some new sightseeing opportunities and, with the extra time, we could enjoy the ride. We were able to go through Las Vegas, the Seven Magic Mountains, the Hoover Dam, and the Grand Canyon, and what an adventure it was.
And in this busy world, uninterrupted conversation is a thing of the past.
Now here’s why I tell you this story. You see, what this trip taught me is that I believe life is more about the journey rather than the destination and how important it is to enjoy the ride. When we decided to go to LA, a dance friend just happened to be visiting. Her lifelong dream had always been to go to Los Angeles. Because we were driving, we invited her to go on the trip. While this started out to seem like a bit of a chore for us, it was a check off her bucket list.
Lots of things fell into and out of place to make this trip happen. The “must go” audition, the exorbitantly priced plane tickets, the stifling hot desert and the substantial road construction. All of these things forced us to make changes in our plans and it resulted in putting us on an amazing adventure. We made new friends and got to know an old friend even better.
We listened to music, we had dance parties (yes, we had dance parties in the car), and simply talked for hours. And in this busy world, uninterrupted conversation is a thing of the past.
Each of our journeys are very different. Each one of us has impacted the lives of others, some for the good and some for the not-so-good. I personally, as most of you know, believe in a higher power and my faith carries me, but no matter what you believe, we are all here for a reason and for a purpose.
Where we started in Kindergarten and 1st grade is very different from where we are today. While this past year we seniors have all been focused on graduation and choosing a college, that is not where we started 12 years ago. And that's a good thing! Because think of all the memories we would have missed.
When we returned home from our trip to California, we were so excited to tell my dad about it. When he asked about the audition, we realized that we had totally forgotten that was the reason for the trip in the first place. What this trip made me realize and learn about myself is that I’ve spent most of my life planning the next big thing. Rushing through the here, the now, and the present. Always rushing to get to the next place. I’m sure I’ve missed many sunrises, many sunsets and many windmills trying to get to the next destination. I am learning to enjoy the detours, the stop signs, the roadblocks and even the potholes. I’ve hit roadblocks in my life that have put me on an entirely different path, and those seem to turn out for the better.
At the beginning of my freshman year, I never would have dreamed that some of my closest friends would be my teachers and my coaches.
I have learned a lot of lessons from each of you. Some of us will remain friends through the next phase of our journey. For a lot of us, this will be the end. My hope for each of you is that you don't focus so much on the destination, but enjoy the journey. In this journey, I have found friends in the most unlikely ways at the most unlikely times. At the beginning of my freshman year, I never would have dreamed that some of my closest friends would be my teachers and my coaches. Whenever I was having a bad day at school, I always found myself in the lunchroom talking about sports with Jeremy, Pierre and Ms. Caron. Yes, I have slightly converted them to being Mississippi State fans, but I'm still working on Ms. Caron. I certainly would have never thought that in my senior year, I would be as close to some of the faculty and staff as I am today.
Freshmen, your journey has just started here in the Upper School. What I want you to do is take a pit stop, take a deep breath and enjoy. People are constantly coming in and out of your lives. Give every person a chance. They might actually surprise you.
Sophomores, I know, you feel like you are just stuck in the middle. It's kind of like having to sit squished in the middle seat of the car. But just think, you're already half way done. So what I want you to do is work hard. Grades are still important. I can tell you that my teachers have gone on a roller coaster ride with me, so learn from my mistakes. Do your Membean and ASK FOR HELP!
Juniors, you are sitting over here itching to be seniors, and you are so close. I want y'all to enjoy your senior year just as much as we have. Take advantage of every opportunity. Seniors, life is short. Go against the herd. Embrace the unknown and trust your own path. Most importantly, help someone behind you. Share your journey. We’ve all had our journeys to get to where we are today. For some these may have been the days of your lives, while for others they may not have been.
Give every person a chance. They might actually surprise you.
We as a class have hit the potholes, turned around at the roadblocks, taken the detours and, most
of all, taken advantage of the pit stops. Because would it really be a Randolph trip without a bus
breaking down?! We are all about to embark on 92 different paths. In order to follow your path,
you must overcome obstacles. As for me, some of my biggest obstacles have become blessings in
disguise. The road may not always be smooth, but everything that happens on our journeys happens for a reason. Sometimes we must face the difficulties to experience true joy. So if you ever happen to find yourself taking a road trip, put down your phone, sing “Home on the Range," watch the sunrise and the sunset, take pictures of the windmills, dance in your car, forget about where you are going and enjoy your ride.