Oak Hill Blog

Of Rocks, Dreams, and Embracing Opportunity

During each morning’s assembly at our small boarding school, various faculty, staff, and students share devotions with the campus community. Wednesday devotions often come from our Director of Student Affairs, who shared the following on Sept. 25th, 2019.

In my pocket I always have a rock. In the morning before I leave for work, I pick one out. I rotate through a few different ones, but they’re all smooth, polished rocks I have collected from beaches in Maine. During the day I often pull that rock out of my pocket and think about being far away on a beautiful beach in Maine. Some days I do that more than others.

In my office I have a whole box of these rocks from Maine. Our family has been going every summer for the past 3 years, and when I look at these rocks, I think about walking the beaches, collecting rocks, eating lobster, beautiful sunsets, crashing waves, the smell of salt and fish, bald eagles, picking blueberries and cherries and wild mushrooms.

On days when I’m frustrated, or busy, or haven’t seen my kids in what seems like a week, or when I feel like all I’m doing is handing out discipline, and correcting, I think about that summer week in Maine. I wonder what Maine is like in late September? How long would it take to drive there…right now?

But the truth is, when it comes down to it…I don’t really want to be in Maine. If Maine were my life, and not just a place to escape to and vacation for one week a year, Maine would have the same stresses and frustrations that I have here, because real life has frustrations and stresses.

The reason I don’t want to be in Maine right now is because I want to be here, in Mouth of Wilson, at Oak Hill Academy. I like it here. Yesterday I was driving by the New River, just about a mile down the hill, and was struck by the beauty that surrounds us. I like my job. I like spending time with students. I like the community of Oak Hill, the environment it provides my own kids, the opportunities to connect with like-minded adults, the opportunity to see students grow and mature and be successful, and the chance to be stretched and take on new challenges.

But there are days–we all have days–when that escape to a fantasy (a beach in Maine for me) looks pretty good. And there are days when my mindset boils down to a choice: How will I choose to view this moment?

Not too many years ago, I graduated from the University of Virginia. I have fond memories of attending home basketball games – camping out for tickets, and the roar of the student section.

There is a quote I love (I’ll get to that in a minute) by Kyle Guy, a member of the UVA team the past few years. Two years ago, in the spring of 2018, the University of Virginia went into the NCAA basketball tournament as a #1 seed in the South Region.

In the first round, they played University of Maryland, Baltimore County. UMBC was the last seed (16th) in the region. In the history of the tournament–since 1939–a #1 seed had never lost to a #16 seed. Over 79 years, something like 316 games had occurred between a #1 and a #16. And the record was 316 and 0.

Of course you know what happened. The UVA team collapsed epically and lost the game by 20 points. There is a famous picture of Kyle Guy walking off the court, being held by a fellow player, crying his eyes out. The team was devastated; they could barely walk around campus without getting heckled; they got death threats. It looked like the team was going to implode. They were the first team in history to be #1 and lose in the first round.

Well, after spending two weeks in the shadows, avoiding the world around him, Kyle Guy wrote this:

I realized that the more time I spent sulking, the more opportunities I was missing to grow. Every second is an opportunity. If you are looking for an excuse, you will always find one. If you are looking for an opportunity, you will find one. I am thankful for this happening to my team and me. We got a head start—in life, and on the court.

Many of you also know the second part of the story. The next year, UVA again came into the tournament as a #1 seed, but this time they went on to win the national championship. But did you know that Kyle Guy to this day says that his three best moments in life so far have been (1) getting engaged; (2) losing to the 16 seed; and (3) winning the national championship? He actually ranks losing above winning. You CHOOSE how you are going to view your circumstances and you CHOOSE how you are going to respond.

Do you want to escape, to be in some alternate existence where things seem perfect and peaceful and magical? Do you want to look for excuses? Because, just as Kyle Guy said, you’ll find them. Or do you want to be here, in real life, in a beautiful place in a supportive community with adults who will push you to grow? Do you want to look for opportunities?

You know what I’ve decided? To forget this rock in my pocket. I don’t need it. I don’t want it. I’m living here in the present in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, and I’m proud to be here and ready to embrace the opportunity. Are you?

Aaron Butt
Director of Student Affairs
Oak Hill Academy

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