Alumni Voices: Grayson Sussman-Squires '17

Grayson is currently at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.

"I don’t mean this to sound facetious, but I can’t imagine anyone graduating high school anywhere and feeling particularly prepared for college or the 'real world.' I certainly felt that I had a fine variation in skills and a fine education with which I could do well in college. However, I was out of the nest for the first time in a big way. It felt like my first night on exchange when I tried to settle into my new bed in Argentina and tossed and turned for lack of sleep, trying to wrap my head around the crazy adventure I was in for, thinking that there was no turning back now. That is as close a parable as I can get to how I felt coming out of GMWS.

The world grew a lot in those first months and I felt smaller and less significant than ever before. That’s how the transition into college began. I was one face in a crowd of three thousand, and compared to some of the institutions which my GMWS classmates now attend, my university is tiny.

At first, it was a little overwhelming to just comprehend the moment and live in the experience without allowing myself to get washed away in a torrent of newness. But Wesleyan University is not a place where one is easily washed away. I met my best friend on the second day here. And I continued to meet the most extraordinary people during those first weeks.

I am sociable and enjoy a good time, so making friends, although of course stressful, was fascinating and fun. I understood early on that those first friendships aren’t and shouldn’t be binding. I let my true friendships blossom and grow without hard feelings toward those that withered at the onset of class and the continual learning of others’ interests and passions. I now have wonderful friends from across the country and from all around the globe. Like-minded people, yes, but friends who push me to be my better self constantly too.

School work had its bumps in terms of transitioning too. I had to use technology more than I ever had in my previous education, but that didn’t hinder me. My school, and especially my fields of study (government and environmental studies), are heavy on reading and writing, which GMWS prepared me for extensively.

I am reading a ridiculous amount, but I love it. And my ability to formulate articulate written arguments has advanced me in my academic standing without a doubt. I attribute these two skills to my education at GMWS.

The capacity for which I am most thankful for fostering at GMWS, however, is definitely the ability to speak publicly and to clearly express my thoughts, opinions, and feelings. I have come into contact in my life with very few people who could not clearly articulate themselves. I found it quite astonishing how rampant this problem is at my university, which is considered one of the foremost in the country. In fact, my capacity to speak in public or private circumstances has defined me most at this institution, for much of the out-of-class learning comes through conversation and rhetoric. I found so much success with speaking, I joined a debating society, the Wesleyan Political Union, a non-partisan group of student that convenes to debate contemporary political, philosophical, economic, and moral issues.

The quality I value most from my Waldorf education is my well-roundedness as a person. At GMWS, I was very academically minded; I took every science elective, did well on block tests and wrote fine papers, but I never pushed myself in the arts. I never pursued music with any seriousness. My Main Lesson books were always complete and beautiful, but I never prioritized them. When I arrived at Wesleyan, I found how untrue all my conceptualizations of myself as unartistic or as 'only academic' were. I am very well-rounded. And so I finally found the importance of liberal arts.

I am a liberal arts student, for I derive joy and fulfillment from studying just about anything. I push myself academically, but I am also active artistically, musically, and rhetorically. I finally comprehended how well-adjusted and balanced my Waldorf education made me. It brought that better self to the fore. Only after leaving GMWS did I fully understand just what went on there. I was a lab-rat freed, only to find out the lab-technicians in their experiments had not altered me in some sinister way, but instead, had set me free.

I’ll close with this anecdote, this experience: as I write, about a week ago, on a wet day at the start of March, I sat atop Foss Hill and looked out on campus below me. The American flag whipped in the winds of an oncoming Nor’Easter, billowing out from its position at half-staff. I smelled the sea on the breeze and I pondered the date. Early March, I thought. Four years ago, on a Monday morning, I arrived at Green Meadow and entered the English classroom of the high school to find Mr. Wulsin standing in dead silence. On the board, a message told my 9th grade class to follow Mr. Wulsin in silence. We did. He led us on a rambling walk through the stretches of woods and fields, down into the hollows and across the streams of Chestnut Ridge. We reached the Red Barn and silently took seats scattered about the barn; I sat on a low rafter near the hayloft. Mr. Wulsin drew out a small, weathered paperback book, turned to the first page and read “Call me Ishmael...” He read the first chapter of Moby Dick to us. It was only in that moment atop Foss Hill that I realized what happened on that day. We were all Ishmael that day (the crew of the Pequod even) and we followed our captain blindly as they did in pursuit of that leviathan, that greater truth. I won’t spoil the end, but, happily, our ending was different from the book’s ending. We achieved what Ahab could not.
I began to reread Moby Dick that night a week ago, almost exactly four years to the day from when I first set forth on that same voyage. I want to tell you one thing about Waldorf very briefly: in the moment you might think, 'what on earth are we doing?' A lot of people do and and many of them never complete their Waldorf education. But, if you stick with it, it all becomes clear in the end. Just like Moby Dick and John Wulsin’s silent, wet March walk to the Red Barn."