Sam Baldwin's Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

Monday, August 29, 2022 - By: Sam Baldwin, Privett '22

To Brentwood’s faculty, staff, students, friends, family, and to the grad class of 2022, thank you for having me to speak in front of you today.  As someone who suffers from considerable stage fright, has a severe allergy to doing work in a timely fashion, and a destructive procrastination habit, having to write a speech in three weeks, which very quickly turned into a few days, and speaking in front of over 1,000 people is just about as far from comfortable as I can get.

Now first off, I’d like to clear up a little misconception about why I’m here. At a lot of schools, the Valedictorian is the student with the highest GPA. And, well, that is NOT me. I don’t know if Brentwood ever did it that way, but ended up getting too many weird speeches from boring nerds, but instead, I was voted to speak here by the members of my grad class, so you get to enjoy a weird speech from a lazy idiot.

And since it was them that put me here, I’d like to start by speaking directly to them: We made it!  And for some of you, that’s surprising.  Twelve years of school, and thirty seven billion dollars in tuition fees later, we’re finally finished with high school.

As a Grad class, we’re off to study a lot of different things next year, and in not too long, we’ll all be living very different lives from those we lead now.  

The English majors will be carrying their books around and reading all day; Philosophy majors’ll be … thinking, Biology Majors will be dissecting something; the Engineering, Chemistry, and Physics Majors will be studying for 27 hours a day, all the while filled with self-loathing and regret; Business Majors are gonna be dreaming about all the money they’ll be making in 10 years time; The Arts majors will be celebrating that they never have to take a math course again; and the Maths majors’ll be plugging themselves into the nearest outlet for the night.

Some of you are pursuing music, film, or theatre. Good on you!!! Chasing your passions instead of money like that. And some of you are going to study accounting. Good on you!!! Chasing money instead of your passions like that.  Some of you are taking a gap year and you’ve probably tricked yourselves into thinking you’ll attend university after. It’s not likely, you’ll be way too happy to go back to school again. But regardless of what you’ve chosen for yourself in your future, it’s clear that some of you need to learn how to study harder, and others need to learn how to party harder. Whatever it is that you’ve decided to pursue, best of luck.

But that’s enough thinking about what we’ll be doing in the future. Instead, I’d like to briefly revisit our past as a grad class. There’s a few of you that were new to Brentwood this year, and despite only joining for the last leg of the race, I’m sure that you were all swept up in the craziness of it all, and very quickly found somewhere you belonged. Even though there are so few of you, you’ve all had an impact on those you’ve met here, and I can firmly say I wouldn’t have enjoyed this year nearly as much if I hadn’t seen Miles strolling around in a kilt at Track & Field. You’ve all solidified yourselves as members of the Brentwood community, and I’m glad you all came, even if it was just for a short while. That last part did sound a little bit cult-like to be honest, but I couldn’t think of anything better to say so let’s just gloss over it.

Some of you joined us in Grade 11, and had already found your place at Brentwood for our final year. While you’ve only been here for half of the time those of us who joined in Grade 9 have been here, it feels like forever that I’ve known all of you. I’m sure none of us can picture a Brentwood without Jacob Hart and Hannah Waring strolling around campus together, yet somehow those of you who joined in Grade 11, Hannah included, have only been here for two of the shortest years of our lives.

The largest number of new students join in Grade 10, and while you didn’t get the full four-year ride, or even a full first year here without a slight virus interruption, I couldn’t imagine my time here without all of you. My experience in Privett House would’ve been so different without Mark LaFreniere and Dexter Oldland living in the room next to me, or the shenanigans Liam and Perry Fortier, Belal Hassoun, and Nathan Onasanya would get up to in the halls of blue. You’ve all been such a big part of my life over the last three years, so thank you for all the things you’ve done for me, and for all the time we’ve spent together.

To those of us who have been at Brentwood since Grade 9, the so called ‘Lifers’, Brentwood’s experienced veterans. We’ve gone through a little Brentwood sandwich. A completely normal first year, followed by a second with online school, a third year with Camp Brentwood and Covid restrictions, and now a final year that’s been almost completely back to normal. We’ve experienced Brentwood at its best and at its worst, and have seen how much it’s changed over the last four years. It feels like yesterday we were at Strathcona, cold, wet, and sad, yet excited to meet the people we’d be sharing our high school years with.  

To everyone that came here in Grade 8, your time at Brentwood trumps everyone else’s. How you’ve done five years here baffles me; I’m desperately clinging to the little sanity I have left after four, so good on you for sticking it through five.

Now quickly, I want to leave some advice for all of the students coming back, or joining us next year, and while I may not have the spiritual guru level of wisdom that Jacob does, it helped me enjoy my time here. Brentwood has a lot of programs, clubs, sports, and events available to students. Dive in. For a lot of you, this might be the only time in your life that you’ll be able to take part in a musical, or a play, or perform in a band, or play a sport at a competitive level. If you see something on offer that interests you, go for it. You won’t regret it

Jacob spoke about being true to yourself, no matter what, but sometimes, you may not know who ‘you’ are yet. As an Australian, who was born in London, lived in Hong Kong for 14 years, and moved to Canada for high school, it’s safe to say that I’m confused. Always. I never really felt like I was from any of the places I’d lived, and even though all my family is Australian, I’d never lived there, so again, I felt like a bit of a fake. What I realised though, is that it’s okay if you don’t know who you are yet, so take your time finding out, it’ll come eventually.

And while we’re on the topic of advice, you’ll get a lot of it. Some of it’ll be good, for example when I was writing this speech, Ms Wolinsky gave me the advice that it should be one part emotional, one part hilarious, and zero parts incriminating, which meant it was back to the drawing board, because at the time, my speech was three parts incriminating, and one part nudity, which probably wouldn’t’ve gone down too well. Some of the advice you’ll get, well some of it’ll be less good, and lots of it’ll be absolute garbage. Listen to all of it, and above all, listen to yourself.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, some thanks are in order, as well as some apologies.

RJ - Mr Rodrigues, you are the sole reason I got into a university. I know it probably wasn’t easy, and I’m sorry for being the last Grad to present my capstone, over a month and a half late. Thank you for putting up with my laziness, and utter disregard for my future throughout the process of uni applications. On top of all of that, thanks for always keeping a smile on your face through it all, and for being able to make me laugh, even while reprimanding me.

Neuf (Mr Neufeld) and Ms Wolinsky. You’ve helped shape me into the person I am today. These four years I’ve spent in Privett House have been the best four years of my life. The environment and culture you’ve created in the house is supportive, loving, and most importantly, very, very fun. I can’t believe that I’ve already experienced my last house meeting, and that today is officially the final day I get to walk the halls of Privett House as a student. I can’t wait to come back for visits, and for a guest inspection one of these days. I’m proud to have called Privett my home, and I couldn’t have asked for better people to be in charge.

Mum and Dad - the parentals - thank you for the unending support and motivation you’ve given me over not only my Brentwood career, but throughout my whole life. You’ve always been there to push me forwards, and I’ll forever be grateful for that. Also, you paid for four years of my tuition here, which I definitely didn’t deserve.

Luc, thank you for giving me the confidence to come to Brentwood without any reservations about whether I’d enjoy it here, and more importantly, for letting me learn from the mistakes you inevitably ended up making before me. Thank you for making the time I spent at Brentwood with you so memorable, even if a lot of that memory is of a fist planting firmly into my shoulder, followed by considerable pain.

Archie, thank you for giving me a reason to look forward to coming home. I’m always excited to let you know about the things I’ve been getting up to here.  While I wish I could’ve spent a little bit of time at Brentwood with you, I’m excited to see the person you’ll become, and all the things you’ll achieve here.  Happy Birthday by the way! I was going to get everyone to sing happy birthday for you but I think that might count as psychological torture, so I decided against it.

Mr. Interlandi, thank you for giving me a chance to perform in the senior play. It’s probably the only time I’ll ever end up on a stage performing a production, it’s an experience I’ll never forget and is something I’m extremely proud of. And sorry for loosening my filter on that first performance, and all subsequent performances.

Ms Plough, thank you for showing me the magic of Theatre Production. While you may not get that much credit for the things you do backstage, the gratification and joy felt when a show goes smoothly is something I’ll value forever. Thank you for all the laughs and for putting up with all the Theatre Production students shenanigans, mine included.

Ms. Olzewski, I’m pretty sure Mark, Seb, and I are the only Grade 12s that’ve ever needed to be separated for being too much of a disruption in a Physics 12 class. Sorry you had to put up with us for the last three years, and thank you for teaching us so passionately. Good luck at VIU next year.

All of my Privett boys, thank you for being my second family. I’ll miss you all like crazy, and I’ll make sure to come visit.

Jacob, I don’t even remember meeting you in grade nine, all I know is that you’ve been my best mate from the day we first spoke.  You’re a huge inspiration to me, and I can’t wait to see all the amazing things you’re sure to accomplish.

To everyone who’s taught me while I’ve been here, thank you for helping me discover what it is I’m interested in, and for giving me the knowledge and ability needed to pursue it.  Sorry about all the missed classes, forgotten assignments, and that I never did quite learn what a deadline was.  And to duty staff, advisors, leadership and anyone else who’s been instrumental in making my time at Brentwood great, thank you for inspiring me, guiding me, and showing me what it means to be a part of the Brentwood community.
And again, it ended up sounding a little bit cult-like there, becoming a part of “the Brentwood Family”.  You see, what I realised Brentwood does, is that when you first arrive here, they try their best to give you Stockholm syndrome.  They take you away from your home and families, take your phones at night so you can’t contact them, and eventually you end up falling in love with the place.  All of that, just to get me to donate one day.  You’re doing too much.

My 4 years here have been hectic, stressful, challenging, fulfilling, and incredibly fun.  Thank you to everyone who made my time here great, and good luck next year.  De Manu in Manum and all that, I’m sure the leadership team for next year is gonna be great, you’ve all got nothing to worry about really.  As Dexter Oldland so eloquently put it “Ye man, it’s been aight”.

Sam Baldwin, Privett '22

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