TCT’s The Countless Thanks 2021: Emma Zawacki

Staff – for brightening my day with your ability to go above and beyond 

Jadelin, thank you for always being so dedicated. Masyn, thank you for your positive attitude. Kelsey, thank you for making podium days humorous and for checking in on me in math class. Lauren, thank you for your odd, early morning stretches, your helping hands, and the numerous countdowns you keep on the whiteboard. Veronica, thank you for keeping the whole class up to date on the latest trends, and for pulling your blue swivel chair up to the table in front of the couch. Kyle, thank you for always cracking jokes and bringing something new to this site. Liza, thank you for your dedication to doing your best every day and your drive. Kiera, thank you for being a bubbly presence in the classroom, for your dedication to this class, and for your style that I adore. Addy, thank you for all of the conversations we’ve shared. Eva, thank you for your work ethic and your calm approach to life. Coco, thank you for all of your hard work. Sydney, thank you for your encouraging words and willingness to help. Jessie, thank you for sending me Sylvaniadrama TikToks that make my day. Meggie, thank you for your endless jokes that fill the lunchroom with laughter. Sofia, thank you for your selfies in the GroupMe and for always being willing to tag onto my delirious ramblings. Allie, thank you for being an infinite ray of light and for giving the best hugs. Even on days that are dark, you find a way to make them better. 

A picture of Rylie and I during Homecoming week

Rylie Beatty – for mornings occupied by rocks and afternoons decorated with poems

I think of you, and I envision sunsets—cloudless oases of lilacs and roses, inspirational quotes written by people that are either long dead or in the midst of life, and the lavender candle you got me for one of my various birthdays. I enjoy indulging in your love of sunsets by sending you picture after picture of the night sky as the blues bleed into purples and the purples bleed into a black, starry night. Your optimism is something I’ll forever be grateful for.  

A picture of Rylie, Brynn, Emily, and I at the musical last year (Laura Smith)

Brynn Schanski – for notifications littered with weird references to movies we watched this summer

If Rylie is a candle while it is lit, you are the smokey, tranquil atmosphere after you blow out the wick. The split-second afterward where you inhale the grey air, and it cleanses your palate and your mind. The candle smells like old, leather-bound books that live their life on the highest, dustiest shelves, the glass a deep green to complement the eggshell color of the wax. We’ve made a lot of memories together, and I can’t contain my excitement for the memories that are yet to be made. 

Emily Smith – for inside jokes that have lasted since fifth grade

We spend our mornings watching movies about wars, inspirational people, and space exploration; then, we dissect them on our walks to fourth hour. We spend nights in the parking lot of the Cascade Starbucks as one song fades into another, the light streaming in through your sunroof quickly diminishing. I’m forever thankful for our friendship that began almost seven years ago, and I’ll forever appreciate you and our adventures. Thank you for always being there for me no matter what obstacles I may face. 

Bella and I at the festival out game this year

Bella Long – for random, fleeting interactions that brighten my day and evenings in friend’s kitchens

You never fail to make me laugh. Your odd mantras and phrases always put a smile on my face. You’re like the sun, warm and inviting and the best hug-giver. You wrap people with your kindness and love, and you don’t let go; I appreciate you for that. 

Benji Zorn – for your constant disc golf references

Thank you for high fives in the hallway. Your dedication to making sure everyone feels seen is commendable, and I appreciate it. Thank you for our friendship, and thank you for always being helpful.


Mom – for your devotion to making my day better

While there aren’t many constants in my life, the two things I can always count on are texts from you at 7:22 a.m. and 7:22 p.m., the time that matches my birthdate. They pop up on my computer screen while I edit during first hour, and they are waiting for me to read on my phone screen at whatever friend’s house I’ve decided to spend time with. 

Thank you for your dedication to being my mom. Thank you for your endless support of my future. Thank you for being my biggest fan. 

Me and my parents at an MSU game


Dad – for teaching me to pump my own gas and always encouraging my dreams

My whole life, I’ve been told I remind people of you. I have your blue eyes, your nose, and your sense of humor. You’ve always pushed me to be the best version of myself, listened to my angry rants about my day, and held me close after the anger dissipates and all that’s left is tears. 

You’ve taught me so much in my 17 years of life: how to drive in the school parking lot in your car, the proper way to hold chopsticks on a weekend when we were the only two home, and how to stand up for myself. 

When I was young, I thought you were responsible for the snow that littered the ground, and while I know that’s no longer true, I still hold you in the highest regard. And even after I move out, and I grow to be more independent, I’ll still need you and your wisdom. 

My siblings – for helping shape me into the person I’ve become

JT –  I know when you were born, I said I wish I could’ve had a little sister instead, but now, I wouldn’t trade you for anything. When the house is quiet and all the lights are off, I know I can always sneak into your room whenever I need your help. You always make me wait till you pause your game, but I appreciate the support nonetheless. Thank you for putting up with my need to leave the house and to get a coffee on hour delays; you rarely complain when I make us leave absurdly early because you know it appeases my anxiety. 

I keep saying I can’t wait to move away for college, but even after I’ve skipped across state lines, no hour of the night is too late for you to bother me. 

My siblings and I on the first day of school (Julie Zawacki)


Ally – for all of our childhoods we’ve been forced to share. We shared a bunk bed as children, clothes snatched out of closets, and now, we share our untameable, blonde curls. I don’t say it very often, but I love you. And I love when you pop your head through our shared bathroom door with the latest middle school drama—I’ll miss it once I leave.

Brayden – I enjoy our limited time alone together. I forced you to come to the library with me this weekend to write scholarship essays and this story, but nonetheless, I enjoyed your constant distractions and insistence that I solve math problems you wrote on the whiteboard behind me. I’ll miss all of your questions.

Aunt Chris – for your blueberry buckle recipe and being my role model

My mom has always said that everyone needs an Aunt Chris in their life, and I couldn’t agree more. Since I was young, and you helped me string together beads for necklaces, I’ve wanted to grow up to be just like you—a gentle soul that makes an impact on all they encounter. 

Erica Bode – for caring about all the details of my life

Thank you for always asking for updates about my life. I cherish our conversations about meaningless gossip and our combined excitement over acceptance letters. 

Mr. Spadafore – for making Geology rock (get it?)

I’ve never loved science courses, but your appreciation for the subject and the people that sit in your classroom is obvious. Thank you for your dedication to making sure your class is enjoyable and for always untangling the web of confusion Rylie and I seem to get ourselves stuck in.

Mr. Carhart – for making me more of a movie person

Your class is a break in my day that I adore. Not only do I get to watch movies I’ve never seen before, but I also enjoy writing the movie reviews afterward to share my opinions on the film. Thank you for taking my history knowledge and expanding it. 

Mrs. Whalen – for helping me with the subject I struggle the most with

I’m not good at math, but I have appreciated your willingness to help me. You’ve had me in class for two years in a row now, and you still root for me and my math skills. Thank you for answering all of my questions these past couple of years.

Mrs. Penninga – for sharing in my love of words and all-encompassing book series

I’ve enjoyed little more this year than sitting next to your desk. I adore our email exchanges and conversations about our weekends, Adam and Ronan, and Goodreads updates. You continuously push me to improve and to think deeper while we discuss the reading from the night before. 

I not only appreciate and endlessly adore your class, but I appreciate you. Your warmth has made your room a place I feel at home in and I can’t thank you enough for helping me through the highs and the lows of my senior year. 

Mr. George – for giving me a future that I’m excited about, a home in Room 139, and two of my closest friends 

Nat, Mr. George, Kelsey, and I in the Homecoming parade

I have a lot to thank you for. I walked into your room as a timid sophomore who didn’t know much about herself, but I’m about to leave it as a senior who knows the weight of her words. You took my 15-year-old self and gave me not only a spot to rest on the brown couch in your room, but a home within the blue walls. You not only made it possible for me to pursue my dreams of being a writer, but you’re the one who gave it to me. You forced me to memorize an Emily Dickinson poem my sophomore year, and I’ve been hooked on words ever since.

You’re also to thank for my friendship with the two girls who sit next to me on that old, brown couch. They’ve become some of my closest friends, and I’ll never be able to thank you enough for that—for the memories we’ve made because of Room 139.

Avery Jordan and Natalie Mix – for meaning more to me than words could ever express

I once said we were a neon blue color.

I compared us to the blue walls of Room 139, the matching dolphin key chains that we each have four of, and the slushees we got religiously this summer. I said our beginning was as blue as every ending and every other moment in time, but I’d say we’ve shifted into a purple phase of life. A phase full of warmth and comfortability. A phase that’s only constant is each other. 

Constants. Thank you for being my constants. Thank you for picking up late night phone calls and answering early morning text messages. Thank you for always being seated next to me on that old, brown couch; one of you on either side of me, the first thing I see on Monday mornings and the last thing I see on Friday afternoons. 

Avery and I with Leonardo DiCaprio

Avery, I am unbelievably thankful for you and our friendship. I admire your strength and your common sense, your ability to become at home in any setting. I treasure your poetic words and can’t wait to see where you will make a home for yourself in this world, a world that I know you’ll take by storm.

You are the sun that filters in through half-closed blinds and the mist that comes in off the ocean on foggy mornings—you’re a welcome, calm presence during chaotic times. 

Nat and I in the TCT room

Natalie, we’ve grown so incredibly close this year, close over a summer full of D&W runs and off-key Taylor Swift duets. Your half-full Steaz cans containing peach tea in a cup holder and books with cracked spines and dog-eared pages—items that are well loved and encapsulate your aura perfectly, items that we both have an affinity for. You’ve slowly become a reliable source of happiness in my life, and I wouldn’t trade our memories for the world.

Without you both, Room 139 is just a room. Thank you for making it my home.

As much as I love words, there is no metaphor for how much you both mean to me; you both have an incredibly special place in my heart. I’m thankful for your hard work, I’m thankful for your unwavering support, and above all else, I’m thankful for the two of you.

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