After an amazing week, we have come to this moment, to say farewell to our much-loved Year 12 students.
At this time each year, I love poring over photographs that come in from Year 12 parents and students. Hundreds of photographs – funny, quirky, beautiful moments that we show at the Graduation Dinner. They capture Year 12 and their journey through school, for some, over 15 years. As I looked through them this week, I was struck by all of the “firsts”.
First day of school. First disco. First best friend.
First rock band. Look at these stars in the making.
And these. ArtsFest. Formals. More discos. Jubilant, happy moments.
And in the photos, so many firsts. And then it hit me. We’re often in such a hurry, racing with great anticipation towards all of those firsts, and then comes a day like today and we just want it all to slow down a bit so that we can savour where we’ve been for all those years for just that little bit longer. But time won’t stand still, especially on days like today.
As Shakespeare wrote in Henry VI, “See the minutes how they run”. The march of time, steady and unstoppable.
This is some of what I said to Year 12 today:
Year 12, when you can hardly believe that it’s now your turn to leave school, you can be forgiven for being blindsided by a wave of emotion, washing you around and around and upside down, knocking you sideways with feelings that you just didn’t see coming.
I asked the brilliant and eloquent Sarah Street from Year 12 about her firsts and her lasts, and how she’s feeling about them, and this is what she told me:
“I can’t say I remember a lot of my firsts at IGS. I had just turned three on my first day here, and I can’t tell you who my first friend was or what I ate for my first lunch, but I know I will always, always remember my lasts. Year 12 is full of them; last athletics carnival, last classes and most of all, last goodbyes. Saying goodbye to IGS is probably the most bittersweet experience of my life. I am so excited for the future and yet so sad to leave this amazing place and I know that the last time I walk out of those gates and past that purple wall, I will be leaving behind some of the best times of my life.”
As you contemplate the last day of school and what it all means, please spare a thought for your parents, your grandparents, your siblings, and your families, so many of whom can hardly believe that this part of the journey is almost over.
In that spirit, I’d like to share some words on the subject of firsts and lasts from Mamamia co-founder and journalist Mia Freedman. Mia was an HSC parent a couple of years ago and she wrote an article called, My son is finishing school and it is ripping my heart apart.
This is some of what Mia has shared:
“My son is leaving school and I’m in pieces,” Mia wrote.
“Some of my feelings are pleasant. But knocking me sideways is the sadness. Because for every first there is a twin last, stalking it in the shadows. I don’t remember the last time my son cried out to me after waking with a nightmare, or the last time I buckled him into his car seat. I couldn’t tell you the last time I made his school lunch or read him a story. These are the shadow milestones; and you only notice them in hindsight, sometimes years after you’ve left them behind. By then, of course, it’s too late to go back and appreciate them.
“No doubt I rushed through all of the firsts and the lasts, impatient for them to be done. But I look back now and feel a deep melancholy nostalgia for a time when he needed me more than he ever will again. While I gratefully attend all the final assemblies and leaving dinner rituals organised by his school to mark the significance of this transition, I turn up each time carrying my heart nakedly in my hands. I am in awe of how successfully he has grown up and away, from me. I love the man he has become but I mourn the baby, the toddler, the child, the boy and even the adolescent that he had to leave behind, to become that man. I miss them, all of them. I miss every incarnation of my beautiful son from the moment he was born. I loved them all, with all my heart. And now I’m heart-swellingly proud of my big boy’s independent spirit and his ability to navigate life so well, sometimes much better than me.
“As he finishes school and we cross the threshold into adulthood, I know we must navigate a new path for our relationship as mother and son. I’m just not sure how I’m meant to do that. Because what are we now, my boy and I? What am I to him? What’s left? … Us, I guess. Our unbreakable bond. Our friendship. Our connection.”
And so for all of us, and especially for Year 12, today is not just graduation. It’s commencement. It’s freedom. In some ways, your parents’ work is now done. Our work is done. For better or for worse. And hard as it is, the more we let go now, the stronger you become. Today we usher you into adulthood and we say farewell. And we couldn’t be more proud of you than we are right now.
Year 12, on behalf of the entire IGS community, thank you for all you’ve done to enrich our school. Well done on all you have achieved. I want to say a special word to those of you who have pushed courageously through some very difficult times. I have watched you and admired your stoicism and your immense courage, your good humour and your gentle spirit. You have inspired us all.
Year 12, go well into this next chapter, and the very best of luck for the HSC and beyond. And remember, while we want you to do your best and to do brilliantly in the upcoming exams, know that you are not your ATAR. Going forward, what will matter more than marks, and ranks and scores, is kindness, tenacity, an open heart, curiosity about others and the world, and above all else, love. Year 12, it’s time to sail out from this safe harbour now. You are well and truly ready. And you go with our very best wishes.