Sarah Lee

In Episode 116 of “The Simpsons,” new financial stresses force Homer Simpson to return to work at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant under his greedy boss, Mr. Burns. Upon Homer’s return, Burns installs a placard above Homer’s desk, reminding him that there is no escape from his menial work.


When I was a gullible seventh grader, I was so desperate to have some semblance of an identity, I threw myself into situations without thinking about the consequences. That ultimately ended with me trapped in a toxic state of being used, manipulated, threatened, thrown away, picked up again and thrust back into the same sad cycle by someone I loved.

Through pure luck, I escaped from that situation when eighth grade ended. Still, living with that stain on my life hasn’t been easy.

Sometimes it’s discouraging knowing that my time at Harvard-Westlake has been practically synonymous with time spent living through or recovering from trauma. There have been times where my memories crept up on me in the middle of my schoolwork to tell me to give up because all I’ll ever be is a victim. There have been times where I’ve felt like I really was “here forever.”

The thing is, when Homer was faced with Burns’ bullying, he didn’t let it hold him down. Placing photos of his daughter Maggie on the placard, he reminded himself of what was truly important in life, using that as motivation.


I can’t call Homer Simpson a role model, but I’ve learned something important from Episode 116.

Whenever I want to just stop trying, I remember my younger self from before any of this happened. What did she want to get out of my time at Harvard-Westlake? What kind of person did she want to become?

When I think of the person I once was, I remember that I’d always wanted to be a teacher’s pet. I never earned that reputation, but my teachers have always been important to me. My teachers are the reason I’ve never given up.

So, to every teacher I’ve had over the past six years: thank you. Thank you for being the reason I’ve made myself stay at this school even when the going got tough. Thank you for being the exact type of people I know my young self would hate to have disappointed.

Without my teachers, I don’t think I would have been able to understand why I should not only stay in, but try to succeed in such a high-pressure environment. It’s because of them that I was able to realize why I do this in the first place.

I don’t do it to look good. I don’t do it to get recognition. I don’t do it for the sake of a certain number at the bottom of my transcript.

I do it for myself.

I do it for her.