Dear Montecito: Shelagh Morphy

By Stella Haffner   |   February 18, 2021

The letters in this column often remind me how young we are when we’re asked to make big decisions. We’ve heard from so many people who had chosen their path before they even reached legal autonomy. Evidently, a third of students change their major at least once and as many as one in ten change their major multiple times; which shouldn’t surprise me since both the author of today’s letter and I fall into the latter category.

This week we’re hearing from Crane and Cate alumna Shelagh Morphy. Shelagh is here to tell us about growing up, the process of reorganization, and treating the present as a gift. 

Dear Montecito,

Shelagh Morphy was accepted into Northeastern University in Boston as a Media Arts major, but has since changed her major twice

My name is Shelagh. I am 20 years old. I’ve lived in Montecito my entire life, attending Crane Country Day from kindergarten through eighth grade. I went on to Cate for high school. After high school, though, I decided to attend college in Boston. I am currently a Design Major at Northeastern University with a minor in Creative Fabrication. Pretty much up until this past year, I had little idea of what I wanted to do or be “when I grew up.” 

In the second grade, my best friend and I were dead set on becoming neurosurgeons. In third grade, fashion design was in, neurosurgery out. Around fifth grade, my dreams were set on musical theater. Photography and jewelry making were next. Then, when my seventh-grade science teacher Mr. Von Phul told me I had a knack for chemistry, theater was a thing of the past. During my first two years of high school, I stuck with science and math. I wasn’t passionate about either subject, but I wasn’t much good at anything else. I did love art, but, again, I wasn’t all that talented. I tried painting, drawing, ceramics, etc. 

I ended up taking photography, because an art class was required. At the beginning of my senior year, we did a period on surrealism. The Oxford Dictionary defines surrealism as a cultural movement which “sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind; for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images.” I loved the idea of creating art where the beauty of the natural world meets the absurd impossibilities of our own imagination. In class, we were tasked with creating works inspired by this movement, manipulating photos rather than paint. It was this project that pushed me to consider a future in art. I ended up only applying to schools for media arts, photography, or photojournalism. I was accepted into Northeastern as a Media Arts major, and I have since changed my major twice. All this to say that I have never really known exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I have a better idea now, but I am wary to make plans. 

Some people are planners; others do not have the necessary mental (or emotional) capacity. Take me, for example. My brain can have a difficult time accepting the kind of commitment plans often entail; my brain can also have a difficult time remembering said plans. Last week, I tried to plan out the rest of my college career in an effort to graduate in a semi-timely manner. I had mapped out my classes, and not 10 seconds went by before I decided it needed reorganizing. I continued this cycle relentlessly until finally I resolved to leave it be. That last draft I came up with has only gone untouched for so long because I completely forgot about the whole ordeal until just now. I am not a planner. And I think we’ve established I am not a writer (at least not a very concise one). I don’t have a five-year plan, because I know that my idea of the next five years will change, over and over again. Look at this past year. 

Since the seeming eternity of quarantines and lockdowns began, this year has taken turn upon turn for everyone. I did not expect that I would be living at home for more than a year in the middle of my college career. I did not anticipate taking three-hour studio art classes from my bedroom. 

I was supposed to be across the country while my brother celebrated little victories like getting an A on a test, while my mom developed a passion for simple syrups, and while my dad went crazy for home improvement projects. I was supposed to be in Boston while my friends were scattered across the country.

Instead, I get to be the one to high five my brother, taste-test for my mom, and hold the level for my dad. Instead, I get to spend almost a little too much time with my best friends. 

I did not have much planned for this year, so I couldn’t really be disappointed by life not going according to plan. I don’t think I would have been able to appreciate all those little gifts quite so much. 



P.S. Parents of Montecito children, if you have recommendations on people to feature in “Dear Montecito” please contact me,


You might also be interested in...