What is a Moment?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 - By: Esmé Stumborg, Allard '14, Valedictorian

What is a moment? It is not defined by a certain number of seconds or hours or months. A single moment can be inconsequential or can change the course of your life. Some moments you will remember forever, some will be easily forgotten. Some moments are summed up in a song, a smell, or in the warmth of someone’s smile. Some you will want to re-live, over and over again, and some you wish had never happened. The best moments though, are when you can say honestly, that you would not rather be anywhere else, with anyone else. It is a string of these moments that make up a great life. 

If we try to imagine a world without time, it would be difficult. Our lives are regulated by clocks, calendars and schedules. We divide each day with hours that pass us by, one not much different from the next. But time is a human construct; it only exists because we believe it exists. The sun does not need a watch to tell it when to share its warmth. Nor birds to sing their songs or whales to make their annual journeys South. Life is a series of these natural and spontaneous changes. All around us the world turns with no acknowledgment to the division of moments.  Thus, humans are the only ones who suffer the daunting fear that time is running out.

I have a theory about time, and moments, and change. Everyone has a finite number of days on this earth, although how many is a secret to us. Because moments cannot be defined, the number of moments in a life is infinite. If we were to get rid of the construct of time, the only other way we could perceive moments passing by is through change. The coming and going of the moon, a tide, even a person. So, the only way to expand our lives is through the initiation of change. This is why traveling, spending time in nature and childhood seems to expand time, because everything is new and lively and captivating. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

I’ve only been at Brentwood for two years, but I choose not to calculate my experience here with time, but rather with moments, with the people I have met and the change I have seen within myself. If I calculate my experience in this way, Brentwood and everyone in it becomes dynamic - a part of the reason I am who I am today. And for that, I am forever grateful. These memories will be kept as some of the finest in my life so far. I am constantly amazed that some of the most intelligent, talented and inspirational people I have ever had the luck of knowing have all congregated in one school and it has been an honor to watch you all grow into the people you were meant to be. 

There are so many people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make Brentwood what it is - a school, a community, a home. First, I would like to thank all cafeteria staff, laundry ladies, maintenance, health centre, IT, administration and bus drivers for dedicating their time to make Brentwood such an amazing place. Your hard work and commitment does not go unnoticed and you make Brentwood a truly enjoyable place to be. I would also like to thank the teachers, whose devotion to the students and to Brentwood inspires us every day. We are so lucky to have you as our guides, our friends, our inspirations and our mentors. 

Now let’s not forget our house parents, the people who can turn a house into a home, strangers into friends and finally, friends into family. These are the people who give us encouragement, security and strength. Thank you so much; you are all unforgettable. To Mr. Patel and Mr. Felix, thank so much for your commitment to the student’s wellbeing and personal growth. We will try so hard to make you proud. Finally, I would like to personally thank my parents for always having confidence in me, especially when I had none in myself, for allowing me to follow my own path and to make my own mistakes. But more than anything, thank you for being my life-long teachers and for allowing me this opportunity. It is impossible for words to even begin to express my depth of gratitude for everything that you have done for me. I love you so much. 

If I can say only one thing before I leave you today, it is this: do not be afraid of change. Yes, it can be daunting, but familiarity must be sacrificed for the glorious and perpetual pursuit of life. Change makes your days long, not in the number of hours, but in the number of awe-inspiring, breathtaking, goose-bump inducing moments. We are standing on the edge of greatness with our entire lives laid out in the unexplored, just waiting for us to stretch out and grasp them. There are oceans to be swum in, mountains to climb, books to read, music to be made, entire lives to be lived, just waiting for you in the unknown.

It is your choice how you view the world, and I advise you to look upon it with the same curiosity, wonder and glittering anticipation as a child. Right now, I am choosing not to view this day as an end, but simply as another change in my life that will give way to the next adventure. We will never be more alive nor will the world ever look as big as it does today, surrounded by mountains, trees and the ocean. Just like the ever-changing tides, this is our moment for transformation. Our moment to step into the unknown with enough courage to be who we are meant to be. Our moment to create our own lives and space. So, Brentwood’s graduating class of 2014, this is our moment.

Esmé Stumborg, Allard '14, Valedictorian

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