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Mark Mazzenga immerses himself in fatherhood, teaching

Grace Hamilton
English Teacher Mark Mazzenga socially wears “different hats.” Through fatherhood or teaching, Mazzenga shares his story.

In his own words…

My whole life, I’ve always joked that I want to live forever. My wife is like, “You don’t actually want to live forever.” No, I think I do. I do want to live forever.

I’m a fairly risk-averse person. [My wife] once asked me why I didn’t drink or do drugs or any of those things in high school. I wasn’t a total misanthrope, but my dream high school night was going to the YMCA and playing basketball. When I saw other people drinking and doing drugs and experimenting, I saw why there was an appeal for that, but I also saw that there’s an inherent danger, too. I don’t ski for that reason – I’m afraid of falling down on my wrist or arm or something like that.

I’m a very curious person, too; maybe risk averse, but curious. I had a pretty eclectic personality in high school, and my friends were from wildly different groups and backgrounds. 

I didn’t skateboard, but I had friends who skateboarded. I had friends who were deep metal heads, and I love metal music, but I also loved rap music and rock bands like Weezer. I also had friends with no money whatsoever. My best friend Richer, Joshua Richer (I was friends with, like, all the Josh’s… it was the ’90s) I’d pick him up every day because he had no money to do anything. And then I had friends who were super wealthy.

I had a pretty eclectic personality in high school, and my friends were from wildly different groups and backgrounds. 

It wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m a skate rat now,” but I wore a lot of different hats, socially. I enjoyed being able to navigate different social circles like a social chameleon – I’d become a slightly different person, subconsciously.

Looking back on it now, everybody in high school was trying to sort themselves out, trying to find a niche. Maybe my niche was a little bit of a lack of niche.

Some kids were actually very good at coming in with their own style. That’s the beauty of the dress code versus the uniform: you could see them and the choices they made to wear a polka dot bow tie versus a Tommy Hilfiger jacket. 

The kid across the street from me went to the same high school, two years older. My mom asked his mom what kids typically wear to school. “Well, kids typically wear khaki pants, a buttoned-down shirt and a blue blazer.” And so my mom bought me lots of khaki pants, shirts and blue blazers. 

She was trying to protect me. She didn’t want me to be the kid who showed up in the polka dot bow tie, and I stuck to that, you know? Not saying I didn’t have a style because I’m sure I carved something out in high school, but it was pretty close to what everybody else looked like.

I did little things, an earring being one. Piercing my ears was a little bit of rebellion because you weren’t allowed to have pierced ears in my all-boys Catholic school. I did it over the summer so that during the school day, I could take it out. I would put it in the back of a tie. Ring ring, three o’clock would come. I’d put it back on. If I got my ears pierced and I didn’t like it, I could take it out. It’ll go away, right? 

I enjoyed being able to navigate different social circles like a social chameleon – I’d become a slightly different person, subconsciously.

I don’t know what’s holding me back. I’m a fearful person. If I live forever, what do I have to be afraid of? 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very lucky. I’ve met amazing people, I’ve had a great relationship – I’m not unhappy with the way my life has played out. But I feel like there’s so much more, and yet I’m so afraid of that more. I’m at a point in my life where I’m a little regretful of missed opportunities. 

My wife’s like, “Let’s go on a ski trip next year. You can learn.” “Or, I can just skip right to apres-ski,” I said. Why don’t I learn to ski? It’s not a big deal – I can learn with my daughter. But it’s not an instinct for me.

My three friends and I were talking about a scenario where you’re going on a long trip, and your kid throws up right before you’re going to leave. Consensus. All three of them were like, “We’d go on the trip. What’s the worst that can happen?” 

“I think I’d go home,” I said. “I think I’d be afraid.” 

I’m scared. I’m very scared of death. 

I don’t live my life in fear of it; I don’t wake up in the morning thinking I’m going to die. I don’t live my life paralyzed, but I feel the clock ticking. It’s somewhere lurking, something going, “How much time do I have left?” If I’m going to live forever, maybe I’ll get to do those things, or maybe I’ll be that different person at some point.

I’m scared. I’m very scared of death.

My daughter and I just had a daddy–daughter weekend because my wife was out of town, and my daughter said something like, “My favorite thing is being lazy.” That really wounded me. “You’re not lazy, as in, you’re adventurous and brave.” I want to feed her that narrative. 

I want my daughter to be a risk-taker. I have taken risks in my life, but it’s taken great prompting by other people – I would never naturally take that leap into the void. 

When I was in my early twenties, it was my first time ever going to a casino with my girlfriend at the time. I played blackjack, and I won a lot of money – something like $500. As we’re walking out of the casino, I turned to my then-girlfriend and said, “What would happen if we put money on the roulette table? What if we put it on 17 black? It’s my favorite number and my favorite color.” 

She’s like, “No, you probably shouldn’t do that.” I had never planned on coming back to this casino ever in my life, and I’m like, “We should just stay and watch.” We watch. Ding ding ding ding ding! 17 black. 

Years later, I ended up in this casino randomly– it was only my third time at a casino. My friend and I played blackjack and this time I lost like 50 bucks. He went, “Why don’t we play roulette one time, and we’ll split the winnings. We’ll put all the money on black.” 

“Maybe we should put it on 17 black,” I said, but he was like “No, let’s just put it on black.” Tick tick tick tick tick! 17 black.

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About the Contributors
Emma Lucas
Emma Lucas, Opinions Editor: Print
Emma Lucas (’23) is the Opinions Editor: Print for The Standard. She started journalism in Grade 10 as a staff writer and also expresses her passion for writing in Commonground, Jambalaya and Writers’ Seminar. Lucas is keen on exploring interdisciplinary links between studies, being an avid STEM and humanities student. Beyond The Standard, she is co-President of the Student-Faculty Disciplinary Board and the Model United Nations club.
Grace Hamilton
Grace Hamilton, Editor-in-Chief
Grace Hamilton (’23) is the Editor-in-Chief of The Standard. Her love for writing stemmed into a passion for journalism, and she became involved with The Standard in Grade 9. Journalism provides her a powerful platform to inform the ASL community and learn more about local and global perspectives, issues and events. Outside of journalism, Hamilton leads the Sustainability Council, writes creatively and sails competitively.

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