To coach Jim Villa at Jersey Wahoos Swim Club, where I basically grew up in the water, staring at a black line forever: Thank you for teaching me how to speed up my arm turn-over. And how to improve my backstroke technique. And for that one time you mimed kicking my butt to get in the pool at the start of practice (timeliness). For always saying, “(H)EY! LISTEN”, amplified by both hands on your face, which underwater sounded like “ALYSSA!” so I’d stop swimming and poke my head up. This is where I learned to wear a watch, to be on time, to swim with high elbows (in the 7th lane, I’ve got a scar on my hand to prove it), to show up, and to do the set that I thought would kill me because I learned afterwards it was possible.
To Mr Semus, at Cherry Hill East: I don’t think I could have learned any math after algebra had it not been for you. Thanks for breaking down an undecipherable language into something I could digest. And being passionate and great at what you do. Thank you for being an approachable, nonjudgmental teacher, who didn’t ridicule me for skipping school. In high school I hoped as an adult that I’d find something I’m passionate about almost as much as you are about teaching math. Specifically, thanks for teaching me algebra II, pre-calculus, AP calculus, SAT I and II math, and multi-variable calculus. A legend.
To Davyd Booth, my violin teacher and member of the Philadelphia Orchestra: There was violin before meeting you, and violin after. Violin didn’t come easily to me, and I remember after our first lesson, telling my mom that you made everything so easy. Thank you for showing me that you can be the designer of your life. Your birds. Your accordion. Your piano. Your greenhouse. Lessons at the Kimmel Center. Piano lessons! When I told you I was going to USMA and you asked me, “Why??” and really not knowing why. One day when I actually plant myself somewhere and grow some roots, I’m going to design my life with the same style of agency.
To Alla Fabrikant, my piano teacher, who taught me on Friday nights, from middle school until I left for college–there aren’t enough words to describe how thankful I am for having been your student. I could be everything I wanted when I sat on the piano bench. And after each lesson, on the drive home (after I got my license), sometimes the stars would be out and I could reflect in my own element. As Charles Bukowski wrote, “there is light somewhere”.
These notes are almost a decade late, but I needed that time to grow and reflect. Do you have anyone you need to thank?