I couldn’t say goodbye

A+collage+of+Odyssey+of+the+Mind+team+photos.+These+images+span+a+variety+of+years+from+fourth+grade+to+now.+

Lauren Brace

A collage of Odyssey of the Mind team photos. These images span a variety of years from fourth grade to now.

I never thought that one pink slip of paper would change my life forever. I remember coming home in fourth grade to unpacked boxes and clutter across the kitchen table as my family was still in the process of moving into our new home. Somehow, that piece of pink paper peaked through the jumble of objects, drawing my attention to the combination of words across the top: Odyssey of the Mind (OM). 

With my parents’ encouragement, I made the first major commitment of my fourth-grade year: agreeing to be whisked away into a mayhem of creativity with strangers. I was soon to be introduced to not only the world of power tools, scriptwriting, and prop designing, but also to my future best friends. 

Finding the words to describe what OM taught me was simple. My team showed me what it felt like to truly love a friend with every ounce of my being. Not a romantic or familial kind of love, but an entirely new form—one that swells uncontrollably and spreads until it encapsulates every thought. The kind of love that stems from countless days working side by side through all the failures, discoveries, tears, and successes. The kind of love that I can’t imagine living without, and yet, find myself surprised and grateful to have it in the first place. 

The question asking if I wanted to continue dedicating my time to this creativity competition was hardly a question at all. I could hardly wait to start another season, and I was already contemplating ideas for the next solution. It was no surprise that this cycle continued year after year; I just couldn’t get enough of the excitement that radiated throughout every OM performance.

A wave of emotion crashed down upon me, and I realized that I couldn’t say goodbye.”

— Lauren Brace

While a multitude of trophies and medals have been collected over the years, these souvenirs can’t compare to the memories that I brought back. It’s not just the victories that I cherish; all the setbacks, minor defeats, and stumbles along the way are equally important in the puzzle that makes up OM. 

After seeing the growth of what my team could achieve, especially in those moments, I am enveloped in fulfillment for all of our accomplishments. 

I had no idea that the pink slip of paper was a ticket to the ride of a lifetime, full of twists around songs and puns, loops of spontaneous problem solving, and adventures to Europe and World Finals. The roller coaster crested mountains that made me look back, awestruck by their sheer height. 

Just when I thought that my time on the coaster was coming to an end, that I had enjoyed the final thrill, and it was time to ease back into the station, my friends encouraged me to get back in line for one more adventure.

A wave of emotion crashed down upon me, and I realized that I couldn’t say goodbye. The vast ocean of memories was enough to drown in, and yet, I craved for more. I realized that I felt at home in the sea of structures, spontaneity, and silly parodies of songs that crescendo until the time is up. I’m still not ready to swim back to the shore where such a powerful creative outlet is nonexistent. 

So, continuing to pour my passion into eight-minute performances, I am content—floating in the evanescences of artistry and imagination.