A Life in Whittall

Monday, August 03, 2020 - By: Yale Handler, Whittall, 2020; Photo by John Pettit

The following was delivered at the Lifers’ Dinner in late May, 2020.

When we left school in March, we were all under the impression that we would be back in just three short weeks. But, as the pandemic developed, a return to school became less and less feasible until it was inevitably called off. Like most of you, when I read that email, I was gutted. Four years of early mornings, academic rigor, relationships, and house pride. Every interhouse event, theater night, big bros session, dons run, open house, movie night, or Saturday night barbecue all culminated together to make one unforgettable experience that seemed to end too soon and too abruptly. I kept thinking about all my friends and peers that I may never see again and I couldn't help but feel sorry for myself.
But then I started to think about how lucky I have been to live with this group of people for the last few years. I mean come on, just look at Sonny Assaly. After four years of protein shakes, potato chips, and McDonald’s, he’s gone from having the physique of a toothpick to having the physique of a slightly taller toothpick. But seriously, Sonny has stood by my side even through the humiliating airband routine where thanks to Dr. Evil, it really was “Just the Two of Us”. Next is the quaint Bo P and while it may not seem like it, Bo has become a force to be reckoned with in the house, especially when it comes to fighting off rats and designing house clothing. Then we have Isaac Keen. In grade nine, I think I heard Isaac said all of two words but in the last four years, he's found a passion for the gym, rock band, and musical theater. The next lifer is Rhys Norman. While he might be most notable for his love of junk food or Italian sports cars, Rhys has developed quite the career as an ESports player and coach and has even landed himself a spot on the ESports team at UBC. Then there is Alex Scarrow, who is arguably the smartest lifer in Whittall. After swearing off ‘extracurriculars’ in grade nine, Alex narrowed his sights on academic excellence. So if you're looking for Alex, he is in one of three places: the library, the gym, or in the mirror flexing. Finally, we have Seb Cooke. Although he spent his first two years in Rogers, Seb has added pranks, country music, and facial hair to Whittall House despite Mr. Carr’s daily reminders to shave.

It was after this surge of pride that I thought about all the idiosyncrasies that make Whittall so special. It's the times we did prep in our underwear, just to make our duty staff uncomfortable, it’s the Saturday night barbecues that always seem to run out of food right as you get in line, its Mr. Queen’s overhyped guest inspections that you clean so hard for even though he barely steps foot in your room, all the times we’ve rolled our eyes, out of love of course, as Ms. Pettit calls one of her never-ending house meetings, and all the times Mr. Gage has told us to “keep our noses clean” after Saturday inspection.

I once had a camp counselor say “The magic isn’t in the dirt” while explaining why people come from across the world to return to the same place every year and I could not think of a better way to describe Whittall. Is Whittall great purely based on the location? Is it great because of its history? Or is it great because of the people? I believe the latter. Houseparents, duty staff, and students all devoting themselves to making our lives so incredible and for that I say thank you. I can't even imagine how hard it will be to not wake up in the comfort of Whittall House, surrounded by my best friends. Simply put, I have fallen in love with Whittall House, and I am so lucky to be a part of something so incredible. Yes, it might be a while until we see each other again but until then, stay close, stay proud, and remember: You mess with the bull, you get the horns.
Thank you.

Yale Handler, Whittall, 2020

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