The Valediction

Saturday, July 11, 2015 - By: Toby Collis Handford, Privett ‘15; Photo by Ian McPherson

Often we students are asked, “What makes Brentwood such a great school?” and, often that aforementioned question is met with another question for an answer. “What makes Brentwood such a great school?”​ I answer, “Has there ever been such a dedicated group of teachers in one institution?” Maddi Andrews might answer, “Is Brentwood not even more than great because it has world class facilities?” Jordan Reymer might answer, “Would you like fries with that?” because he just got a little confused. And I'm a little confused too because here I am, eighteen years old and on my last day of high school yet I feel reluctant to leave. I should be euphoric at the thought of leaving a school that believes wearing white socks should be treated with capital punishment, yet I am hesitant. I should be exultant that I leave behind an organization that claps so much that we now have puss-ridden calluses on hardened palms, yet I am trepidatious. I should be pumped like a bike tire to be free like Pip's Eagle and venture into lands beyond Uptown - yet this school still has its hooks in me. Too many teachers do I admire to simply absquatulate, too many memories do I hold dear within these gates, and too many friends and I are just not ready to say goodbye, potentially forever.

I arrived at Brentwood as a small, immature, crass boy. And I speak to you now much taller so my first thank you goes to the cafeteria for tirelessly feeding me over my four years here. Over the course of my speech I do not make mere claims such as the IT department claiming that the wifi is faster than a legless hedgehog, or the Health Centre claiming that taking two tablets of ibuprofen will cure your headache, broken ankle, or case of malaria, or even Head of School’s claim that that the new giant brown “B” is not just the first of eight instalments which, by the fall, will spell out the letters of his name, BUD PATEL. Instead I speak truths.

I am a believer that our lives take place on a train track. We ride aboard a train perpetually in motion, chugging along without brakes or any particular set destination. I see school as a tunnel that we must pass through. Disparate to popular metaphor, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, because through the tunnel it is nighttime. With no one there to guide us I could be traveling into a suffocating, monotonous void so take a little bit of what I’ve got to give to you and understand: we could be lost in nothing, blindly clawing our way through university - but Brentwood has a cast a light on our paths. Grit and Joy are more than simple blasts of rhetoric. They serve as an example of what Brentwood has instilled in all of us. Every one of us came to Brentwood afraid of something, and now we stand as conquerors. I came to Brentwood afraid of public speaking, yet here I am. Jack Hamilton-Lane had been afraid of art class, yet he is now one of the best painters in the school. Damian McMaster came to school petrified of swimming, and yet now he drowns in women. 

What does this say about Brentwood? It sculpts us. Moulds us, or at least encourages us to explore latent possibilities within ourselves. Brentwood has been more than a helping hand, it has been a collective body of memorable people and experiences that have furthered us all. Brentwood staff have aggrandized our maturity to the nth degree and for that we remain forever thankful.

Last week I walked into Mr. Patel's office and he was playing Battleship against Mr. Allpress. He explained to me that sometimes he likes to close his eyes and randomly tap places on the board of where he will make his next move. “What is that?” I asked. “It's the strategic plan,” he said. And although I make fun of him, he made my yearbook write up for In Appreciation even though we were limited to 40 characters, so parents, please feel safe and satisfied with your decision to send your children away and let them have a life here. We cannot thank our Houseparents enough: their guidance has been tireless and loving. The same goes for the kitchen staff and the laundry ladies, Mr. Felix, and a special nod to Mr. Garvey and Mr. Tate as this is their final day, as it is for all of us, and to focus in on my real feelings, leaving the people behind at this school will be the hardest thing I have ever done at here. Best friends in Grad Class 2015 turn to each other now. Isabelle look at Tristyn, Mollie look at Andrea, Tia look at Hannah, Martin look at Reid, Evan look at Brendon. Soak it in. If you are lucky you will see each other again, but by that next time you might be 30. Hank Wei will have delivered your baby with medical proficiency, Kimberly Gilson will have written the book you all read to your children, and together you will have watched, on a Sunday night, Hayden Love wrestle CM Punk at Wrestlemania 44. 

We have had some phenomenal times together, and I had a dentist appointment so I didn't actually go to Grad Weekend but Harry Son told me it was a total blast and I believe him and I hope you cherish the memories we created because I know I will. To end this speech with an apologetic nod to the poor Grad Council and that grad song I so royally bungled, I thank you staff for helping me learn, I thank you caf for keeping me vegetarian, and I thank you grad class for the stellar time. When I am with you there's no place I'd rather be. Study whenever.

Toby Collis Handford, Privett ‘15

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