Remember when we used to play with puzzles?
There was an entire shelf stacked with puzzles in my second grade classroom. The mental image of running over and grabbing a puzzle (preferably a Strawberry Shortcake puzzle), finding a seat on the bright red alphabet carpet, and spilling the dozens of cardboard pieces onto the space in front of me is vivid enough to have happened yesterday.
My teacher eventually caught onto the class hobby, and began purchasing puzzles in duplicates so that more than one person could work on the same puzzle at the same time. However, we took it in a direction that I doubt she ever anticipated: extreme puzzle races.
A classmate of mine – we’ll call him Kanye – and I were the best puzzlers in the entire class. We beat everyone else so easily that we had no choice but to go against each other. Every indoor recess that winter was like a WWE tournament – others crowded around us to witness who would take home the championship belt. We both had our own little fan clubs, with the girls mainly on my side and the boys on his.
“Let’s go, Kanye!”
“You got this, Rosalyn! You’re almost done!”
Yes, it was that big of a deal. With so much pressure, one would think that Kanye and I must have been classic enemies. We were far from it, however. During those puzzling battles, in between wiping the sweat from our foreheads and cracking our knuckles, we would exchange glances of silent encouragement. In all honesty, I wanted him to win just as badly as I wanted to take the win for myself. And when I did just so happen to lose, I experienced a mixture of disappointment and pride. I found it discouraging that I could not call myself the puzzle champion, but I was overjoyed that Kanye could.
[Insert predictable analogy between puzzle competitions and my experiences with QuestBridge here.]
My QuestBridge application was yet another extreme puzzle race. The essays and short answers were my chance to prove myself to be a standout, just like I did on the alphabet carpet so many years ago. Upon becoming a Finalist, I was once again left with no choice but to face off against my biggest competitors.
Dear 2015 National College Match Finalists, you are the Kanyes of my extreme puzzle race.
I can’t put into words how badly I want to be matched, so I’d have to create a whole new language to explain how badly I want the same for all of you. We’ve all worked so hard, overcoming obstacles and striking down adversity to make it to this point. Moving forward, I know that every single one of you deserve success just as much as I do, and that’s why I could never consider you merely my competition.
And even if after all of this I have to step aside while others earn the title of puzzle champion, I’ll cheer for you like I’d cheer for Kanye. No matter what happens on Match Day, I’ll stand firmly in your corner, because you are my puzzle partner, and I wish you nothing but the best.
Side note: If it gives you any hope, Kanye has grown to be a very splendid young man.
– by Rosalyn Huff, 2015 National College Match Finalist