"the school that changes lives"

By surprise, this piece was later published on page 10 of SBMS's first newsletter
of the 2009/2010 academic school year. A complete surprise that felt like an honor:

“A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.”

Upon hearing news of tremendous change taking place in the school I hold so dear to my heart, I found varying emotions rocking my soul. Shock, dismay, surprise, understanding, and overwhelming delight came over me. Twice, I asked my source of information to rewind, repeat, and take it into slow-motion. Finally, swallowing it all down with a big gulp of oxygen, I found acceptance for all the news, knowing even the heartbreaks are just part of the forward pedaling motion Santa Barbara Middle School is celebrated for.

First, I must admit how often my thoughts trace back to my days on the bike; undoubtedly more than the average mind wandering back to pubescent junior high. If I’m not day dreaming about the friendships gained, and lessons learned, then I often find myself acting as storyteller, riding an outsider up Figueroa Mountain on my handlebars, or painting a front row picture of a breathtaking Death Valley sunrise. In the days following this pivotal news however, I found myself with different thoughts.

Although the changes taking place are riveting and diverse, my mind’s focus couldn’t escape the most surprising of all the news. Brian McWilliams, the man who clicked me into live-web interaction with students in Tibet, who taught me how to make my very own movie, my 9th grade Novus teacher, my friend… has been chosen to step into a role of great proportions. Leadership, yes. Decision making, yes. But as any person whose heart is blue, yellow, and shaped as a diamond knows, Brian is approaching a seat still warm from the chain of legends who have occupied it. We all know the names and stories of the headmasters who have moved, touched, and inspired so many of us; and Brian does too.

I believe most of us were surprised at the news, but never doubtful. Why the shock? Because the Brian I know would never campaign for the role. As a matter of fact, he never appeared on my imagined headmaster line-up. While his capability was never questioned, he was off my headmaster-radar because of who I believe he is in the SBMS community. Brian’s success as a teacher, while academically effective, truly thrives in his effortless friendship with the students. He belongs in the Novus classroom, he belongs at the beach for Friday electives, Brian belongs next to the students, not in front or behind them. Because Brian loves what he does, I never entertained idea of his place in our community changing. And (sigh of relief)… it’s not. After speaking with Brian about the news, I sincerely understand that while this might be a change in our school’s structure, it is ultimately just a supplement to his life at Santa Barbara Middle School.

Occasionally sharing a beachside laugh with him and his wife, my friendship with Brian has only grown since my days in his classroom. Philosophy, ocean swells, and of course always keeping up on life, I have never felt a disconnect in our honesty with each other. Before we spoke, I feared a silence in my voice, as his title is now composed of authority (and as many know, I don’t do well with authority). Contrary to my fear, Brian is still Brian: brilliantly easy to talk to. I expressed my joy and excitement, as well as my concern for the challenges that will surface. He added to my feelings of delight, and agreed that tasks will emerge that may look as daunting as Yukkity Yuk Yuk, Mighty Might, or even Gibraltar Road. As a former student who cried at the bottom of those steep, outrageous looking trails, I know that conquering a mountain is possible one pedal at a time …and he is just the man to take the snout, leading us to the top.

Ingenious, insightful, and truly open to opinion, Brian is more than just our next headmaster, he is our community's new voice; wholeheartedly representing faculty, parents, and students of the past, present, and future. When I think of "the school that changes lives," I recognize SBMS as successfully continuing to evolve, while never losing sight of where it came from. As I have always been, I am supremely confident in Brian's dedication to OUR school, the tradition we honor, and the growth we welcome. As an eternal devotee, and formal alumna, I'm supremely proud of the choice that has been made in naming Brian McWilliams as the Interim Head of School for OUR Santa Barbara Middle School.

Alexandra Frost


swift inspiration


Close your eyes and imagine the PERFECT day.
Now open them and ask yourself why you didn't picture today.

Voltaire once said, "wherever my travels may lead, paradise is where I am."

Thursday tandem.

Such a team-player happiness is...
allowing other emotions to shine when they're screaming for attention. Maybe we all just need to be better coaches, and stop playing favorites. The more we remember we're happy, the less we forget.

I remember a time, not long ago, my heart took a blow and I sobbed like a child. All energy was lost, eyes like puffed-pastries, and the stains that ran down my cheeks carved into my skin like Morton's fine sea salt. The t-shirt of my friend, wet from the tears vented on her shoulder, was stained by the mascara from my bare, wet lashes. As she held me, I felt the exhaust of my 2hour sobfest come to a space where oxygen no longer battled to enter my lungs. I felt my breath soothe and calm my nerves as lethargy overwhelmed me into a euphoric daze. She said something, mundane really, maybe just a word, and I couldn't help but laugh. Delirious, and not quite comfortable, it felt more like a smirk outloud. Rare? I think not. At the end of an excruciating emotional release, there always seems to be a laugh. Maybe that's just happiness poking us, reminding us it remains patient and present.

As I race the trails of my memory, running out of fingers and toes to count these emotional breakdowns, I'm reminded of instances where I tried so hard to hold back any trace of laughter or smile, for days on end if I could; all because I was afraid of negating the "seriousness" of my cry. It seemed back then I didn't believe crying and smiling could coexist, and I wasn't ready to stop being miserable. ...but that's just it. I get it now: I may cry when I lose people or things, I may scream and yell when I'm angry, and I may want to sleep all day and be alone when I'm low, but does that mean I'm not happy? Absolutely not.

All emotions & feelings exist as their OWN entity. Happiness is not the absence of sadness, anger, upset, fear, gloom, sorrow, etc. ...and more importantly... Sadness is not the absence of happiness, joy, delight, pleasure, bliss, etc. We either have an emotion or we don't. It either exists or it doesn't. We don't have to choose just one. As humans we are capable of feeling -- infinitely.

When a tear runs down my cheek, it doesn't mean the smile in my heart has vanished; it's just merely turned upside down. I lost a lover, I misplaced a friend, my money is gone, the heart is broken, I wake to nightmares and fall asleep without dreams... whatever the challenge may be... it all simply supplements what I've chosen to create & ever-last in my life: happiness. How does upset supplement what seems to be its exact opposite, happiness? Things may be opposite, but it's false to believe something can only exist in the absence of the other. This is why the yin and the yang coexist in a never ending circle, creating a constant, complimentary whole. "Yin-yang describe opposing qualities in phenomena. They are bound together as parts of a mutual whole." I am Alex because I smile often and cry easy.

We cry, we get hurt, and as quick as it came, we exile our happiness to a land of disbelief. People lose sight of what truly causes their tears because they become aware of losing their smile... so they cry harder!! Sadness doubles because we believe our happiness is gone, taken away from us! ...and it is... if we believe it is. Believing happiness can't coexist in a body of diverse emotions, squeezed tight like anchovies in a can, has predictable outcomes. If you believe it, it will come true. I am eternally convinced by the power of manifestation. So, create your happiness, and ride your rollercoaster. Manifest emotional coexistence. Be happy, and have sad moments. Be happy, and get angry. Be happy, and choose solitude. And always, always, let yourself cry into a smile.