As a freshman on staff in 2014, I felt like hot stuff when my first story – a food review of sushi burritos – was assigned to me for the highly esteemed print issue.
With this confidence I visited Wrap N’ Roll Sushi in Midtown with my older brother Yanni, ’13, then returned home and got to work.
I thought I had cranked out an incredible culinary critique that showcased my unparalleled writing skills. Instead I got pages and pages of comments on my Google Drive document. (And they weren’t positive “Great work, Katia” comments, either.)
Seniors criticized my repeated use of the word “delicious”; apparently, this word had no place in a food review.
On top of that, adviser Patricia Fels, whom we all call Fels or Edna (I mean, come on, she looks exactly like Edna from “The Incredibles”), gave me only a check (kind of like a C) for my grade.
Feeling defeated, I thought I would never amount to anything more than a reporter on staff.
But never using the word “delicious” in a food review was just my first lesson on staff that helped me work my way to the top.
I learned how to guilt Fels into writing my pages’ headlines after what seemed like hours of complaining, surprise everyone with the amount of delicious food I could stuff in during paste-up dinners, make a crooked checklist on the Cave’s whiteboard that others could barely read, quiet down a room filled with noisy freshmen, and, most importantly, work together with staffers.
And what’s that? That’s editor-in-chief material.
As annoying and loud as certain redheads can be, my four years on staff have pushed me to become more patient and collaborative.
Just as paste-up week always seems to work itself out in the end and result in a great issue (and sometimes even finish in time for Fels to meet her husband, Daniel Neukom, for happy hour), the community that is our staff worked itself out in the end.
Coming into senior year as one of three print editors, I had my doubts over whether I could work with my twin sister Annya and alpha co-editor-in-chief Sonja Hansen, but we managed it.
But now it’s time to talk about something more important: appreciation for others.
I’m grateful for my four years on staff. Four years of improving my writing. Four years of free dinner during paste-up week. And four years with the talented kids that make up our staff and the devoted adviser that is Fels.
Thanks for everything, guys. I’ll miss the crazy nights of paste-up so @#$%&*! much. Fels won’t like my profanity, but I have to stay true to myself.
—By Katia Dahmani
It’s a Friday night, and I’m at a high school football game, cheering loudly in the stands for some school I don’t go to.
I’m enjoying the school spirit that I rarely ever got to experience firsthand when someone asks me, “Where do you go to school?”
“Country Day,” I respond.
Seeing a confused look emerge on their face, I quickly add, “It’s a small private school in Sacramento.”
“I’ve never heard of it,” the person replies.
And after 13 years of attending Country Day, I’ve had this same conversation countless times.
Usually I don’t care about having to explain where I go to school, but at the beginning of my sophomore year, I had an experience where I felt differently.
I was scrolling through Twitter when someone slid into my DMs (direct messages, for those who aren’t social-media savvy).
It was from a boy who went to Rio Americano High School, asking where I went to school.
I thought I knew how this conversation would pan out.
So I sent a DM back saying, “I go to Country Day, but you’ve probably never heard of it.”
“I’ve heard of it,” he responded. “It’s that rich, snobby, weird-kid school, right?”
“Nope, wrong school,” I sent back.
I wasn’t about to let the school I’d attended for basically my whole life get trashed.
Moral of the story: Country Day may suck at times, but it’s where some of us make our best memories. So don’t take it for granted.
I mean, where else do you get to learn about countless conspiracy theories (Shoutout, Dr. Baird – I truly miss you), have a class of only two people (my sophomore French IV class with Lily Brown) and see a manifesto for the first time right before your very own eyes (sophomore year was quite interesting)?
And where else do you get the opportunity to be a part of something as awesome as the Octagon? Honestly, staying at school until almost midnight once a month and putting together a 16-page issue sounds like a drag, but it’s actually so much fun being trapped in a room the size of my closet.
The Cave holds some of my best SCDS memories, from spreading elopement rumors (I’m sorry, Amelia, for starting these with Adam) to hearing neighbors on a hunt for their cat (RIP, Milo) to listening to Fels say “nini” (pronounced “neenee”) to mock my sister Katia’s tweets.
So, in the end, I’ve gotta say: there’s no place like Camp Country Day, my friends.
Peace out. And go, Bruins!
—By Annya Dahmani
I should have taken ceramics. It would have been so great. Nobody gets upset over a clay pot, sends angsty emails over your color choice, or calls you in for a meeting because your paperweight was “a little too controversial.”
Ceramics projects don’t have due dates. And as soon as you’re done with your assignment – boom – instant Mother’s Day gift!
When you work on a ceramics project, you can listen to George Harrison, turn your brain off a little, and spend hours selecting pastel colors while enjoying the sunshine and breeze that blows through the outdoor studio.
That studio nestled behind the art room, overlooking the lower school playground and 30-foot-tall evergreens, would have been my safe haven.
Instead the stinky Cave is home. Superman has his mighty Fortress of Solitude. I have this sweaty shack in which “There’s always room for one more!”
It’s 96 degrees in here. I’m currently squished between 15 staffers who are squawking about how “We need to change page seven to page five!” and “Where are those pictures I asked for?” and “Oh, my God! I just lost all my pages!”
At the beginning of the year, junior Chardonnay Needler and senior Sahej Claire designated a day to clean the Cave. I contributed by picking out a roach smashed in between the space bar and Alt-key. Private schools provide a life of luxury.
Instead of going home with paint splatters on my hands, I go home with bloodshot eyes from staring at a computer screen.
But the thing about taking a ceramics class is that you can’t change a person’s life or a community’s understanding of a subject through a little bowl. As far as I know, the world’s revolutions were rarely brought together by a spicy-looking vase.
Worst of all, ceramics is not taught by Patricia Fels. If it were, students would likely be overwhelmed with snippy comments from their adviser. But they’d also have the great fortune of associating with the smartest, most fearless person I know.
—By Sonja Hansen
“Hi, my name is Sahej. Nice to meet you. By the way, I don’t like chocolate.”
After all the ragging my friends have subjected me to over the years, I may as well begin to introduce myself like this in college. Though I don’t see my disliking chocolate as something that merits special attention, the despair and wailing that I hear after my confession would say otherwise.
I don’t know if I can pinpoint exactly why I don’t like chocolate. I just don’t enjoy the taste; I’ve never found it appealing. It’s an odd imbalance of being simultaneously overly bitter and overly sweet and can be fixed only by the immediate removal of any chocolate present.
Over the years I’ve learned to avoid sticky situations – birthday parties featuring chocolate cake, generous grandmothers with chocolate candies in their purses, the Nutella jar being passed around – but that just makes the fallout when I finally reveal my secret all the worse.
But I must say that I’m thankful for those who know me well enough – the Octagon staff – that this is no longer a shock.
After my three years on the Octagon and countless hours spent writing, editing and being not-so-productive at paste-up, the staff has become a little more like an incredibly dysfunctional family.
Despite the numerous arguments and shouting matches we get into, we somehow still manage to pull it together and produce content that we’re all proud of.
I am so grateful for the immense amount of time and effort that the staff dedicates to every part of this publication. They truly embody the facets of good journalism, and I can’t wait to see where they all go.
I have learned so much over my three years, not only about writing and journalism but about leadership, communication, collaborative effort and – above all – the power of a collective voice.
But without adviser Patricia Fels, I never would have learned so much, and we never would have accomplished all that we did. As much as we joke about calling her “Edna,” she really does embody the character’s dry wit, blunt honesty and sincerity, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
So to both Fels and the staff, for all of the great times and wonderful memories: thank you.
Originally published in the June 6 edition of the Octagon.
—By Sahej Claire