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Learning to Be Grateful for Life’s Imperfections

Learning to Be Grateful for Life’s Imperfections

Learning to Be Grateful for Life’s Imperfections


Yae reflects on how striving for perfection can get in the way of the process in art and life.


June 2, 2023

James Yae '23

The way I have approached life at Hotchkiss is a reflection of how I have approached making my artwork in the ceramic studio. 

The first day I sat down at the wheel at the beginning of my Prep year, I had one goal in mind: to create the cleanest, most uniform pieces. Throughout the next several months, I struggled to transform the little, dense lumps of clay into the perfect vessel, agonizing over details and concealing any visible bumps or dents. 

But even when I carefully camouflaged my “accidents” by overlapping different glaze colors and textures, the firing process revived the pieces’ imperfections, the defects I had so feared and hated. I couldn’t get it right. I started to question the defects, the “failures,” in the pieces I made. Were they really imperfections that I saw? Or were they simply figments of my imagination? When I slowed down and moved away from my pieces, I saw that the “flaws” were actually integral parts of each piece, the unique characteristics that made ceramics ceramics. I learned that the beauty of art resides in the process rather than how well light reflects off of the final product. 

To Ms. Christine Owen, instructor in ceramics: Thank you for helping me realize this through your smiles and encouragement, to step away from my piece at times when I needed it the most in these past four years. Without your help, I wouldn’t be the artist and person I am today. 

Through it all, I recognized that I needed to be more patient with myself, with life, and with all the things it had to offer, the comfort and authenticity of human relationships, the bliss of living in the moment, and the exhilaration in experiencing the spontaneous butterflying of knowledge and perspectives that came from having conversations, both inside and outside the classroom. 

I gave up trying to achieve a single result and reminded myself that, at times, things won’t necessarily pan out the way I want them to; it is all part of a process. At times, it was okay not having it all, it was okay not being serious about the small things, it was okay not to be okay. 

Things weren’t perfect, they never would be, and when I felt like I didn’t get the decent grade, have the great swim practice or the most productive ceramics class, when I questioned whether I really belonged here, what mattered most in those moments was that I acknowledged that these are things that we all, as humans, experience. 

Through this recognition, I noticed that life wasn’t as stressful. For once, I began enjoying things like English — relishing the myriad interpretations of the texts, delighting in waiting with strategic patience for others, for literature to resonate with my thinking and emotions. Thank you, Dr. Katie Fleishman. 

To my dearest friends — you know who you are — thank you for always being there for me and helping me to share this voice with the community. I couldn’t have done it without you. For the adults who helped me to navigate my life here, I am forever grateful. Ms. Peggy Hsia, your unwavering support and generous heart as an advisor are just some descriptions of the world you have meant to my journey here. Mr. Keith Moon, head coach of Varsity Swimming, though your swim sets were ridiculously hard, in every conversation both in and out of the pool, I learned something new. To the other adults I’ve been lucky to know here – Mr. Alex Ginzburg, Ms. Ana Hermoso, Mr. Adam Lang, Mr. Mario Williams, Mrs. Maggie Crain, Ms. Annie Hall, Dr. Dahiya, D.K., Ms. D.P., Mr. Alex Forero, Mr. Josh Smith, Ms. Carita Gardiner, Ms. Brenda Cudney, Dr. Jared Zelman, Ms. Marie Castagna and many more, from the bottom of my heart —thank you for showing me the importance and warmth of humility, empathy, and resilience with your vibrant presences and hearts. 

I’ll be frank — I am still learning. I’m learning how to find answers to the questions of life and learning what questions to ask. I’m learning that answers to the questions I ask are never the final destination in life, but an evolving journey in themselves. 

Royce Shey ’21 once said to me, “Hotchkiss is what you make of it.” But as I see it, Hotchkiss is also how you make of it. I hope these words can linger even for a moment in your hearts, as they have for me. I wouldn’t have wanted Hotchkiss any other way.

Benjamin Who is an editor-in-chief of The Record.

February 1st

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Editor's Note: This article was recovered from The Record's online archive. There may be stylistic and visual errors that interrupt the reading experience, as well as missing photos. To read this article as it appeared in print, view our print archives.

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Editorials are written by members of The Record's Executive Board. They typically center on issues related to the school or student life on campus.

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