One of the sections included in the annual Senior Edition is a series of essays titled Seniors Speak. These works are written and submitted to The Acronym by members of the graduating class, allowing them to reflect on their experiences, share advice, and advocate for change. The writer of this piece is Neil John (IIT ’23), who lived in 1505A during his senior year. While at IMSA, he was the 1505 CD and president of SDAC while also being heavily involved in culture shows.
I remember opening my e-mail two years ago and seeing the subject “Senior Will” in the midst of the old SquirrelMail interface. I had no idea what that meant, but it concerned my seniors, the class of 2017, so I had to know. What I found was a list of “wills” to juniors and sophomores all across campus. I didn’t have to scroll long to find my name, underneath the first header: Aakash Lakshmanan. It read:
To Neil John, I will you to find yourself here in IMSA. I know sometimes it may seem like things are against you but I have seen you grow since the start of the year and I am so glad to have started talking to you towards the end of this one. I know you will grow to be a star by the time you are ready to leave IMSA but until then man, enjoy your time here. These few years fly by and I assure you will cherish every moment of it. I will you to find happiness here in any form it manifests itself in. Until next time, Neil.
I don’t think he knew how much these words would influence my time at IMSA over the last three years. Thinking back to all of the people I had gotten to know throughout the duration of my sophomore year, I began to understand just how much my life has been changed by them. This piece is for them.
(All Wills are in order by housing unless marked with an asterisk)
To Faith Meijas
Faith! From the conversations through the windows during Excel to the last minute mandarin tutoring you’d give me before a Ting Xie, you always were there to support me. Everywhere you went you would brighten up the day of the people around you. It was on my worst days that you came up to me, sat down and just let me spill every detail no matter how much time it took. Although there is nothing on papAlexer, you inspired me to be there for others as you were there for me. Thank you.
To Dhara Patel
I feel awkward writing this, as everything I’m about to say has been communicated in some way over the last two years. Although we were friends my sophomore year, I never imagined that you would grow to be something much much more. Still, I learned a lot from you two years ago. If you didn’t know this, I sucked at dancing and you had a big part in giving me the determination to continue. I remember practicing hard for modern and then never trying out. Seeing you practice daily with SDAC or on your own gave me the motivation to pursue something similar. Pushing through no matter what gets in your way is what you willed to me. Honestly, it’s the only thing that got me through this place. Thank You.
To Madison Dong
I felt so scared the first time I talked to you. A scared little sophomore at large applicant who wanted to learn more about StudCo. It was then when I realized that I had discovered the chillest person in this world. Even though we barely knew each other you always gave off this vibe which turned the awkward atmosphere into a friendly oasis. Whether it be a random conversation in Sodexo or seeing you when you visit randomly. I always try to never alienate people and be as friendly with people even if I have no knowledge of who they are. It’s made my life infinitely better. Thank You.
To A-Down (Alex Y. Adrian B. Krishi K. David Y. Jae O. Srivarun T.)
It would be hard to split y’all up into separate people, as it was unlikely I would ever find you guys apart. I was intimidated by all of you at first, however, after realizing how childish all of you were, it was easy to fit in. Watching Krishi struggle with Music Theory to witnessing dumb arguments between Krishi and David, or Alex and Adrian. I loved spending time with each one of you. Krishi, you willed to me to keep the spirit of 05 alive and continue the memories that you gave me. I’m glad to say that I was able to accomplish both. Thank You.
To B-Down (Wasan K. Justin X. Adi B. Ankit A.)
This quad was the most interesting combination of people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I still think that there will never exist a place where someone could simultaneously have in-depth conversations about gaming, math, anime, and music than this place. Whenever I was bored I always walked across to the end of the hallway to find Justin face deep in a game of league to Ankit hammering out push-ups. I learned a lot from each of you individually, but as a whole, you taught me that friendship shouldn’t just be based on interests. If it wasn’t for this I would have led a pretty boring life. Thank You for saving me from that life.
To my second home my sophomore year. Junior year, and now this year (for the most part).
To Herschel Gupta
Herschel, you were one of the people I aspired to be the most. Smart, funny, amazing dancer, and lastly, a good friend. I was always so scared to talk to you as I felt inadequate in every way but your silly personality and quirky antics late at night relieved any fear I had. No matter how intense you got during drill practice or boys dance practice I always knew that whatever you did was out of love. You willed me that mentality and it made falling in love with my hall a lot easier. Thank You.
To Rohit Mittapalli (& Nitiya Talasila)
Rohit you are one of the most “don’t judge a book by its cover” people I have ever met. Behind the tall figure, intellectual voice, and impeccable fashion sense was a literal teddy bear. Emphasized especially when you were with Nitiya I found an example of someone who could balance everything. You were a role model to many of us sophomores through your leadership in robotics and when you helped us with homework. However, the time I felt the most connected with you is when I helped you set-up your Prom ask. It was then when I discovered your true side. All the random times I walked by your intervis’ and y’all would just chill and talk came back to me. You willed me a sophomore as entertaining as me, and although I got that, what I got from you the most was how to be a good person. Thank You.
To Ram Koganti
Explaining you to sophomores is always double the work Ram. I first tell them about how you were strong enough that things would just break when they came into contact with you. I tell them about how you did handstand push-ups in the stairwell and all the other fitness shenanigans that occurred. I can’t stop there, however, as I don’t want them to think of you as some swoll mean guy. That would be a complete lie, as you were the most genuine, humble, kind person to ever exist. No bad word would escape your mouth and you could make any person feel instantly comfortable. I still follow your advice on workout form and hope to be half the person you are. Thank You.
To Denisse Avalos
You and Faith were basically my parents during Excel and throughout the year you still found a way to improve my life. I remember our 6th mod Sodexo conversations about whatever was going on in either of our lives to random arguments about who-knows-what. You had the best advice for my small stuff and I still use it today. You showed me what it was like to be a good upperclassman. Thank You.
To Polina Bondarenko
To my not concussed anymore (I hope) friend. I think some of the best conversations I had resulted when you were concussed. You always could keep up any type of conversation no matter how dumb it was. We always had fun on our own but when we got together with Gedi and everyone else; those are the times that I smile back on the most. I still owe you Chinese food by the way. You taught me how to talk to new people and face all problems with determination. Thank You.
To Sam Okoli
To the wisest man of them all. Lord Sam, you really set an example for us. You showed us how much a passion could influence a person as we saw the toll writing a novel took on you. You willed to me mentorship, and I’d like to think that I was able in some small way to influence at least one person during my time here. Thank You.
To Andrew Ye
I think I can count the conversations we had my sophomore year on one hand. Even with this limitation, I was never not in awe at what you were capable of. I saw you dance at every single event and put your all into it. When I learned that you started dancing during your second semester I was dumbfounded. You gave me the spark to put my all into what I now love. Thank You.
To Aakash Lakshmanan*
Words cannot describe how much you impacted me, a young sophomore. Teaching me to live my best life for myself rather than wasting time slaving away for someone else’s dream. I spent most of my sophomore year overwhelmed by the many talents and skills of people around me. Looking up to these people I always felt crushed by the pressure I had to succeed them. You brought me out of this, not through advice or late night conversations (though there were many of those) but simply by living a normal life. I watched you disregard the irrelevant tasks before you and focus on the goals you wanted to pursue. When you told me that you wanted me to find myself I was confused, but I slowly started to realize that if I simply lived a life with the sole focus of being free I would eventually accomplish the task you wanted me to. I don’t know if I’ve become a star, but I loved every single day here, the good the bad and whatever came in between. Thank you, Aakash. Your will to me has been completed.
To the reader, I can imagine that a lot of this did not bring insight to who these people were, as the descriptions were given little context and written intentionally vague. I wanted to instead give an insight to the type of person I have become as a result of these amazing individuals. I was able to transform from an awkward shy baby soph into a someone who I can wake up and be proud of. My juniors (class of 18’) have had an equal if not more impact on my life, building on all of the things that were willed to me. A lot of times people think that senior wills are physical items or some type of attachment to a club or emotion. Only five of my seniors wrote down what they willed me, but it was through the interactions and bonds I built with these people that I was able to truly understand. In the end, wills are testaments to the time spent with these people. My time here is a testament to everyone I had a connection with at IMSA. My Senior Will to IMSA and all of its people is simply the life I lived as a result of the ones who came before me.