It's the too-huge world vaulting us

Sam's graduation/valedictory week in his words (excerpted from a family letter with his permission):

These last few months were my school wrap-up period. All the festivities, ceremonies, and hooliganism that accompany the traditional graduation process included: 

1. Games! Our House and School Captains played some friendly (but fiercely competitive) games against the girls' school. Earlier this year, there was a game of netball in which the boys dressed up in the girls' uniforms (with skirts and all), and this month we had a game of ultimate frisbee (boys won, 9-0) and a game of bellyball, which is a game the girls' school made up, a kind of fusion of kickball and wiffle ball with giant mats as bases (Maddy you probably remember it). The outcome is still disputed due to some cheating scandals, haha. 

Also we did the Staff v Student Debate! Since I'm on the Year 12 1st Debating team, we debated a team of staff on the topic "That all classes should be 8 minutes," with the teachers for and us against the topic. We threw them a curveball, though, and proposed a countermodel where all classes are 8 seconds. Predictably, we lost, but not without a good fight.

2. Valedictory Dinner and Chapel. After Grandma and Grandpa got here, the graduation happened in full force. The Valedictory Chapel and Dinner is the closest to a cap-and-gown graduation ceremony you get here. I sang the Irish Blessing and another song with the choir to send the Year 12s off, which got me a little teary. I've sung that same Irish Blessing arrangement to all the Year 12s since Year 8 and then sang it to my own Year 12 group. The Valedictory Chapel was a good ceremony as well: they read a 20-second description for each student, which is really nice to see everyone and the awards they got (it did end up taking from 6 to about 11 to do the Chapel Service and Dinner, though, which is the major drawback).

3. MUCK UP DAY!!!! THE REAL THING EVERYONE IS WAITING FOR! It's our tradition to do a massive senior prank day, school-wide and also in each house. For the centerpiece we decided to build a giant wall in the Quad-- about 13 feet tall and 100 feet long. We stayed at school after the Valedictory Dinner to put it up which meant we were at the school from 11 pm to about 2:30 am building it. It's a miracle we got it up and it stayed up. If it had been rainy or windy, it could have fallen over on some poor Year 7 walking next to it. Luckily we had gotten together the past two weekends to do some prefab work. It was pretty legendary if I do say so myself.

Prefab wall prep

Prefab wall prep

Buildlng the wall

Buildlng the wall

The front of the finished wall

The front of the finished wall

The back of the wall

The back of the wall

4. Mock Assembly, Final Assembly, Walk-out. The morning after building the wall, we got to school, showed off our mucking up skills, and then had Mock Assembly, where we did a parody assembly making fun of students and teachers (all approved by school leadership of course, but still with some signature boys-school style humour) and then the Final Assembly, where the School Captains (including me) made farewell speeches.* Then we did the walk out, where we hug and shake hands and say goodbye to everyone as we do one last walk around the Quad.

Walk out (I'm in the front of the seniors walking down the middle)

Walk out (I'm in the front of the seniors walking down the middle)

Now I am just doing some studying for IB Exams in November and some college applications stuff. And [after school holidays end this week] even though we've done all the graduation stuff, school is still on for 2 weeks more for the IB kids. 

. . .

*My farewell speech at Final Assembly:

A lot of today is about the end. The end of our status as Year 12s, the end of the term approaching, the end of our schooling (except the IB suckers who get to stay on another two weeks).

But I don’t want to focus on endings—if only because I know that if I do I’ll start crying. I would like to talk about the new beginnings that are approaching, and how we can make the most of them.

As the Year 12s’ time comes to a close, we instinctively think back to our beginnings at the school. I think of mine, exactly four years ago, when—ready or not—I nervously entered into the school. It was a struggle for the first few terms: from struggling to find friends, to getting lost every day, to getting used to an unfamiliar atmosphere, beginnings can be hard.

And we’ve all had our beginnings here, whether it was in kindergarten or Year 7 or Year 11. So here’s what I ask of you. Make everyone’s beginning the best it can be. Make sure all new students get the opportunity to access the unique community that we all love.

After my shaky beginnings, you all helped the school to become an indisputable part of me. Your kindness, sense of community, and above all, friendship overpowered any feelings of insecurity and fear. I think of the poignant words of E.B. White in Charlotte’s Web:

“Why did you do all this for me?' Wilbur asked. 'I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.' 'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

Though you may think that accompanying someone alone at lunch or offering a kind word to an hurt soul may be small, it is a tremendous, invaluable part of our community. Don’t forget that, and make sure to help along everyone who is beginning at our school.

There’s another beginning, too: a beginning of a new age at the school. We are entering an era of change. The largest of these is the school going co-educational, but the gradual changes continue as time goes on and new students enter these corridors. These changes aren’t bad, though they may be unfamiliar; many of them are for the best. 

But in the midst of change, it becomes important to know what we want to keep—what makes this place so much more than just a school. That may differ from person to person—if you asked all of us up here what defines the school, you would get 130 different answers—but there are constants: friendship, a sense of humour, mentoring, and probably Mock Assembly. Each of you need to find what makes our school special and make sure we never lose sight of our fundamental values.

I know that this beginning of a new age will be guided well by your new school leaders. I know that they will make fantastic leaders, and I can’t wait to see the great things they will do in the next year.

Now you might be thinking now about how I’ve ignored the actual occasion today, but I haven’t. The final beginning we now face is the beginning of a new age for us Year 12s. In just a few minutes, we will be saying farewell to the overpriced Gatorade in the Canteen, to Sarge’s brusque “Quiet down please boys,” to high-stakes games of pool in the Year 12 Common Room. We will be saying goodbye to the halls that held countless before us, and that will hold countless more. We will leave all of you.

But we look forward to our next step, and it is good for us to move on, even if we feel like we could stay here forever. All our paths will be different from now on, but have this starting point in common. We will always have this place at our core.

As we end now, and as we all begin in our different ways, I’d like to finish with a passage from On the Road by Jack Kerouac:

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? –it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s goodbye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”