When I was 17: Mr. Ali

By Else Nye ’20


Set the Scene:

I was in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where I spent most of my life growing up. I had just started at a new school. It was a Quaker school called Abington Friends. I had gone to a huge public school for my entire life and then I switched to this really tiny school which was really different, so it was kind of hard for me- it was my junior year. I switched schools because my parents wanted me to do it. They thought it would be better for me and we had the opportunity to do it so… it was tough but it ended up being really awesome. It was a good experience. It took me a while to like it, like a few months to get used to it, but then at a certain point, I just loved it. You know, it was awesome.


Mr. Ali: (talking to his toddler, Idris) Be careful, bud!


Did you ever imagine yourself as a teacher?

At 17, definitely not.


What did you want to be?

I think at that point I was in between careers that I wanted to be. I really wanted to be an industrial engineer at first, designing stuff like cars and different things. I thought that was really cool and creative. And then I started to want to become a writer as well. So yeah, I was kind of all over the place.


What was your favorite subject in school?

Hmm, I would say photography.


Do you have siblings?

I do. I have an older brother and sister- they’re much older than me though. 11 and 13 years older.


(Idris comes and gifts Mr. Ali a rock he found, Mr. Ali says thank you.)


How were you involved at school?

I played lots of sports. I played basketball, baseball, and I played football for a little while too. I was really into photography and writing, I wrote for the school newspaper and I was doing creative writing, like short stories and stuff which is actually something I still do and really love- be careful Idris! Sorry, I’m talking to my son- be careful buddy! Oh gosh.


What about your first love?

(laughs) Oh man. Um, well I thought it was love. I dated a girl for a big part of high school. You know, I wish her all the best. That’s all I’m going to say. It was not a good relationship but I wish her all the best. It was a growing experience.


What about regrets?

I was a little all over the place in high school, trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I feel like I wasn’t totally sure and I didn’t have that much confidence in what I would end up doing with my life. So maybe my regret was that I wish I was a little more confident and assertive in high school and pushed myself to do things that I wouldn’t necessarily do on my own. I was really shy too, and I think that’s why I gravitated towards writing and photography. I could be artsy and expressive without being in front of a bunch of people talking.


Any quirks?

Yeah, I was super weird. Here’s a quirk: I’ve always been a good cook, so I used to have my friends over for dinner parties and I would make food for everybody. I used to do that a lot for my friends, family, family friends- I’ve always loved cooking. I listened to lots of different types of music, but I would say my favorite was probably hip-hop. I was very close to my two nieces and I used to babysit them a lot. I would just be with them constantly. And they were really young at that point, I think like 5 and 2? I have a HUGE crazy family, they’re very loud and obnoxious at times but I’m very close to all of them, as crazy as they are.


What advice (be it academic or social) do you have for current students?

I would say, just be more confident. Don’t let yourself be an obstacle. I would say I did that often times like even in the way I acted I would just kind of be timid and shy even in my posture and the way I walked and talked, which was self-defeating I would think. So I would definitely say avoid that as much as possible, just be more confident.


Funny Story:

I set my kitchen on fire trying to make frozen pizza. I’m actually a really good cook which is funny. This is kinda hard to explain but I had immigrant parents, and there are a lot of quirks to immigrant parents. And my mom would always, when she was cooking, save the oil that she was using and she would store it in the oven so it wasn’t like out and about.

That day I turned on the oven to make my frozen pizza and I didn’t realize there was a pan of oil in there. I was playing video games or something with my friends and there was suddenly lots of smoke coming out of the kitchen, so we ran over and opened the oven and flames just burst out. The pan was destroyed, and the oven was super messed up. It was crazy. We were running to get buckets of water and put out the fire. It was really bad. My brother was supposed to be watching us and he didn’t do a very good job. We ended up having to get a new oven and replace lots of stuff in the kitchen and I got in a lot of trouble. But it was making frozen pizza and I am a very good cook, which is why it’s so funny.

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