This week was bitter sweet for me. Friday was graduation for the 125 wonderful young adults I have been watching over for the last six years. As their Year Advisor I have been with them since before they began high school and now they are ready to complete their final exams and head out into the big, wide world. I was so proud to see them reach this point, but also incredibly sad at the realisation that our time together was almost over.
Indulge me as I write some things I neither had the time to say in my farewell speech, or the courage to say in person to my beautiful students.
Dear Year 12,
I am proud of you. I didn’t use the word “proud” in my farewell speech because sometimes it comes off a little too clichéd, so overused that it has the potential to not mean what I want it to mean. But pride is what I feel – that swelling in the chest, the involuntary smile when you think of something that you cherish.
When you began Year 7 I was excited and I was afraid. Excited for what the future might hold. Afraid because your welfare and your future was entrusted to me. A guy who barely remembers to brush his own teeth. We had our share of tribulations, the occasional hiccup or moment of disappointment, but mostly it was good. Better than good, and a lot of the time fun. Some of you left for bigger and better things, and some of you came back. You grew into grown-ups and got so much taller than me.
At some point I stopped thinking of you as “my students” and started thinking of you as “my kids”.
I joked with some of you that when I had paperwork to avoid I would search you out on your free periods. To be honest, I would seek you out when I was having a bad day and just needed to feel better, because your company always makes me feel better. I love that we can joke around, that I get you and more importantly that you get me.
You gave me a nickname. It doesn’t matter who first called me RusBus (and I honestly don’t remember), but it matters that you use it as a term of endearment. You are always respectful, genuine and warm in your interactions with me and that means a lot.
You are a constant inspiration to me. I am amazed at your maturity, confidence and independence, the manner in which you conduct yourself at school and in the community. The commitment you show to your study, your school, families and each other. You inspire me to do the very best I can, because I don’t want to let you down.
I am sad that you are leaving school. I wish I could keep you here, but that would not be fair. The world awaits you and you are about to do amazing, exciting, frightening and rewarding things. At first I thought I was jealous that you were about to go off and have the time of your life, but that is not it. I am simply sad that I will not get to see you experience these momentous occasions. To share in the successes and to hold your hand or help you through the lows. For six years that has been my job, my reward, and I must learn to let go.
Despite my sadness, I am looking forward to tomorrow, and the next day, and the months that follow. I am excited for my children’s future (yes, I have children) where you are the doctors, teachers, engineers, mechanics and check-out-chicks of the world. I am excited for a future where you are the leaders, the coaches and the good neighbours of our community.
Winston Churchill, another great leader, once said “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
I am so proud to have known you at the beginning of your adult life, the start of your adventure into the world. I am so proud to have been your Year Advisor.
Thank you for being my kids.
Thank you, dear reader, for indulging me today. I cried my eyes out writing this. It is a strange mix of emotions to see a group of students graduate from high school. I have felt this way before and will no doubt feel it again, but never to the extent I do with this particular group of young people. They have had such a profound effect on my life and left me a better man for knowing them.