Bittersweet Endings – Kelly

With the adventure trip over, in-depth wrapped up, and the year winding to a close, it is a very exciting time of year.  There are officially six days left of TALONS for me and the rest of the grade tens, and it is a pretty emotional time.

I would say I am ready to move on from TALONS.  It has been an amazing two years and I would not exchange it for anything, but there are a lot of things I will miss terribly, things that only TALONS can offer.  In any other class, you will not become as close knit of a group.  You will never experience a sense of family with people you only see for an hour a day.  You will also never have the same sort of relationship with your teachers as you do in TALONS.  But I think the thing I will miss the most from TALONS is the very thing I am ready to do because of it: Step outside of my comfort zone and begin a new adventure.

There are so many things too look forward to and so many things to be afraid of, but that all comes next September.  For right now, I am focusing on the time that is left.

On Friday, I went on my last TALONS field trip.  Ever.  We went to see Bard on the Beach, and it was amazing, and it was generally just a really fabulous evening.  Between hanging out at Kitsilano beach and trying to listen to the hockey game and seeing a play and just having a fun night, it slipped by all of us that this would be the last time we were all together.  It was the last time that all of TALONS, both the morning and the afternoon classes, would be together outside of school, away from classrooms and books and exams and studying.

As I write this, so terribly excited for school to be over and summer to begin, I can’t help but wonder how things could have been different.  If any one person had decided against coming to TALONS, the group could have been so different.  There are so many tiny alterations that could have changed our past two years so completely.

Looking back over the past two years, sure, there are some things that could have been different.  Yes, I wish I had worked harder on a certain assignment or been more involved with certain events or made some different choices, but I guess that is all in the past and we have all created ourselves over the past two years to the point that we are not the same people who walked through the doors of Classroom 204 in September 2009.  And now that we are moving on to the next chapter of our lives, I am really looking forward to growing and creating myself once again, and becoming the person I will be after TALONS is over.

The Call – Richard

It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word

And then that word grew louder and louder
‘Til it was a battle cry

I’ll come back
When you call me
No need to say goodbye

Just because everything’s changing
Doesn’t mean it’s never
Been this way before

All you can do is try to know
Who your friends are
As you head off to the war

Pick a star on the dark horizon
And follow the light

You’ll come back
When it’s over
No need to say good bye

This song is actually a song, that I’ve been looking to use for quite some time. I first heard this song way back in 2008, and I was amazed by the message that it was painting, one of hope, not of sadness, as you step out from one part of your life forever, and into the future. Look to what the future, and not the past, holds for you.

I realize that yesterday was in-depth night, and most people probably expected an in-depth related post. I’m not going to write about in-depth because I believe that the Grade 10s are more important, and that we should honour them, for what they’ve helped us become.

The lyrics, and message of this song, tells a story, of a journey, from the beginning of TALONS, till now, and beyond.

It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word

And then that word grew louder and louder
‘Til it was a battle cry

This tells of the journey through TALONS. From the moment you joined and accepted your place, you all believed that this is the right place for you, until the end, where your belief in this program has only become more cemented and more concrete. This symbolizes the progression of your belief, and your attachment to the program. It started off as a feeling that you belonged here, which turned into a hope that you are a true TALONS. That turned into a thought, a belief in TALONS, and an attachment. From there, that thought swelled to a voice, a voice proclaiming louder and louder that you love TALONS, and that you are in this together with everyone else.

“Just because everything’s changing
Doesn’t mean it’s never
Been this way before”

Just because in the last two years you’ve grown to be accustomed to TALONS, and now moving into a new place, back to “Normal Society” may be slightly unnerving, or even if this thought turns your world upside down, it doesn’t mean that you haven’t been there before. It doesn’t mean that you should be scared, or nervous of what is to come, you’ve been outside of TALONS before. We all believe that just because you’re going back to non-TALONS life, you won’t be unsuccessful.  We believe in you guys, in fact most of us were Born This Way, into Normal Society.

“All you can do is try to know
Who your friends are
As you head off to the war”

War represents the clash between what you now are, and what you believe in , compared to those who are not yet enlightened, those who haven’t seen as deep as you have. But, remember this always, your peers will always be your friends and will always be there for you.

“Pick a star on the dark horizon
And follow the light”

When you are in the darkest parts of your life, follow that star, follow that only light in the stark night, and you’ll come out stronger than before. This is what TALONS is, a safe place for you to fall down and get up again, a place for you to take risks that may lead to many problems, but we’ll always get over the walls. Follow the light beyond TALONS, and you will too keep climbing over the hills, and the obstacles, that is part of a game called life.

“I’ll come back
When you call me
No need to say goodbye”

There is no need to say goodbye to TALONS, come back and visit us next year and we’ll always welcome you with open arms. Even if you don’t, in the past year you have left part of your spirit in our hearts, and you’ll be with us, always and forever. No need to say goodbye.

“The Call” by Regina Spektor, is the song, I remember sitting in the theater, watching “Narnia: Prince Caspian” and in the scene where the Pevensies have to go back to London, I heard this song playing in the background, and I thought that it was so appropriate, and beautiful. Susan and Peter were never to come back to Narnia again, but there is no need to say goodbye, for Once a King or Queen of Narnia, always a King or Queen of Narnia; Once a Narnia, always a Narnia. So Grade 10s, Once a TALONS always a TALONS.

Home – Iris

This is a little piece of writing I wrote the morning after Adventure Trip. I was actually planning on writing something the night we got back, but I fell asleep before I turned out the light. So here it is…

It’s 11:07am, the day after the adventure trip, and I’m back home. Home, as in school, piano, never-ending homework, procrastinated projects… that kind of home. I’m back to time measured down to the very seconds, fattening drivers who are always impatient with bikers, dinner around a table rather than a campfire, no barefoot soccer, no spontaneous singing of “Home”, no running as though you’re flying… I won’t be biking 30km or 70km, I won’t be two hours behind schedule and decide to turn around and sit by a lake instead of continuing to my original destination. I won’t be slathering on layer after layer of sunscreen until I’m ghostly pale. Instead, I’ll be spazzing at a computer, or staring blankly out a window from my desk. I’ll be stressed about piano, finals, even in-depth, as much as I love it.

I’ve found home somewhere else. It’s hidden atop a hill surrounded by trees that are close, but not too close. The sky is our roof and the bushes are our toilets if we get desperate. And yes, we do have an actual washroom, but it doesn’t flush and the toilet paper is half out. Our two precious sinks drip dry of hot water before we’re done doing dishes, but hey, at least we have lights. The grass is soft and the wind is sweet and the rain is quick to come but even faster to go. Best of all, I’ve got a big, beautiful family. There are five (and a half) adults and 35 of the most beautiful, courageous people in world. We can scale Mount Kilimanjaro, we can bike up Mount Everest, we can build 5 tarp shelters and eat dinner at 10pm. Here, I’m always happy. Whether it’s getting “Home” stuck in everybody’s head because I only know the chorus and 2 and a half verses, or biking up every hill with the (slow) Best Group Ever, I’m happy. Even though there’s conflict between us sometimes, with a little bit of love and forgiveness the sun will always laugh with us.

As we all sat around the last campfire, I watched as all six of our Grade 10 girls broke down a little. They apologized and confessed that hey, they weren’t perfect and they knew it and that they were sorry for anybody they hurt. I teared up a little as I listened and watched their blurry faces through the campfire. They were older now, more than just the gossipy, shallow girls my first impression had decided. They were ready to take on the world.

I didn’t want to leave this home. I could finally live each and every moment the way I wanted to. But the final day rolled around, and before we knew, we were 15 minutes away from the ferry. Taking one last look at the place where I knew I would always happy, I jogged passed the irritated ferry ticket collectors and onto the boat, and in less than four hours, each TALONS kid was back in their soft beds.

And I’m back here anyways. I’ve dried my tears after every speech and every hug of closing circle. I’ve said good-bye to the unlockable pit toilets and seemingly-impossible-but-actually-conquerable humpback hill. That’s life for you. It’ll let you have the time of your life and snatch it away so fast you’ll wonder if it was even ever there. But that’s just another hill to climb. I’ve made it up all of humpback hill, so I’m all set. I’ll take them on one at a time. And hey, the sun will still shine and the rain will still splash, and life will keep rolling on.


The end of an era – Elleni

This time last year I was standing solidly in my grade nine shoes, and couldn’t even fathom the concept of eventually leaving talons and going on to conquer the rest of the school. I was sad that our grade tens would be leaving us, but I didn’t seem to process the fact that them leaving meant me getting pushed into one of their positions.

Regardless of whether or not I was ready, it happened, and this past year in talons has been filled with surprises, and joy, and laughter, and fun. There has never been a dull moment. I think every single one of us has really grown to new heights, and blossomed into a stronger person. The adventure trip is always a time to showcase these abilities, and, now that it’s approaching, we’re all starting to realize just how special talons is to us. I don’t doubt that there will be lots of biking, cold weather, singing, campfires, s’mores, and amazing displays of leadership. That leadership will emerge just in time for next year, where the grade nines will move into a new role, and a new group of talons will enter our classroom. Those new grade nines will be just as scared and apprehensive as all of the others before them, and they will look up to the grade tens for guidance. I don’t doubt that our grade nines will step up to the challenge, they just need to realize how capable they really are. People are finally starting to see that the year goes by really quickly, and that the program doesn’t stay the same for very long.

So here I am…standing meekly in my oh-so-big grade ten shoes, wishing that I didn’t have to leave them behind next year. Talons is familiar. Talons is comfortable. Talons is family. Can I picture math class without a teacher that can explain everything? No. Can I imagine English class without a million tangents and side topics? Never. Can I imagine us all being separated into different classrooms and subjects? Absolutely not. But it’s going to happen. Life pushes on whether you’re ready or not. Having more time with what we have now could be amazing! But sometimes you have to realize that it’s time to shed your old shoes, and step into some new ones.

Ready or not, here we come. I just hope that the world can handle us as grade elevens. 😛

The Trip of a Lifetime – Rebecca

Adventure Trip. 11 days, 11 hours, 11 minutes. (I’m pretty sure that’s lucky!)

It’s on everyone’s mind. For months we’ve been planning and anticipating, and now it’s almost here. I don’t think any of us have really absorbed the fact that it’s happening. We’ve all been talking about it, pretty much since the second the retreat was over, but that doesn’t even begin to compare to the trip itself. There’s no way to describe what really happens on the Adventure Trip. Every year, we make new memories, new jokes, new friends. We face new challenges, and learn how to get past them, working together as a group, but we also learn how to do it on our own, overcoming our own personal conflicts and issues. The Adventure Trip is about endings and beginnings. The Grade 9s have almost completed their first year, and (by the end of the trip) are ready to step up and become leaders for the upcoming year. For the Grade 10s, this is the last big Talons experience, other than In Depth night, and it marks the end of our time in Talons. The trip gives us a chance to tie up loose ends, and prepare to leave. Whether you love camping, or have never slept in a tent before, it’s an amazing, unforgettable experience.

Each year, there are concerns about the trip. Grade 9s that are nervous about doing things they have never tried before, and aren’t sure if they should be in Talons, and Grade 10s that wonder whether or not they really still belong in Talons. Many of us have doubts, but none of us need to. We are all in Talons together. We all belong in Talons together. And as Talons, we will all go on the Adventure Trip and finish off an amazing year with an even more amazing, inspiring trip.

There is something about being away from home, forcing you out of your comfort zone, that brings you closer together with those around you. In the past two years of high school, I have been on five different school trips: three with Talons, and two with Band. With the Jazz Band last year, we went to an international festival in Idaho, and this year the Band went on a trip to Cuba. In Talons, I have been on two retreats, one as a Grade 9 and one as a Grade 10, and then my Grade 9 Adventure Trip. All of them have meant a few days away from school, family, and regular routine. I got to spend time all day, every day, with a group of students that had similar interests. And each time I came back home, I had gained something new. The experience of not having somewhere or someone to run to the minute I weren’t so comfortable pushed me to form new friendships and spend more time with others. As someone that isn’t super social, that was an amazing thing. And even when we got back, it may not have been quite the same “family” feel, but I still get hugs and hellos from people in the hallways that I spent a week with in Cuba, and I’m closer with some of the Talons students than I ever have been before.

Now, trying to imagine that multiplied a hundred times, doesn’t even begin to add up to what this year’s Adventure Trip is going to be. With more students than in the past, there will be more people to spend time with, more friends to help you out, and definitely more challenges and bumps along the way. This is Grade 10. There’s only two more months in the school year. And before the stress and craze of exams and last-minute assignments hits, we have one more trip, five days, to relish the time that we spend together in the Talons program.

Of course, with all of the excitement and anticipation, also comes a lot of work. On the trip itself, there will be plenty of work, mentally, physically, and emotionally. With 70 km of biking each day, cooking and cleaning responsibilities, tent set up and tear down, endless problems always in need of solutions, and a never ending fountain of blood, sweat and tears, the trip can be exhausting. Every morning we wake up at six am, and every night, we go to sleep around 11 pm (or at least we try, it probably won’t happen). Average six hours of biking, one or two hours of cooking, cleaning, and loading and unloading bikes and gear, plus leadership activities, temperature readings every night, and lots and lots of emotionally draining challenges, and you have a recipe for disaster. But it’s never a disaster, and I don’t think any of us would have it any other way. Because at the end of it all, you’ll feel more accomplished than you ever have before. There will be smiles and laughter and singing and hugs and the good kind of tears, and you’ll wish it wasn’t over. Then school starts again, and we have to go back to regular classes and routines, but everyone keeps giving each other these knowing looks because we all have these secrets and inside jokes from the trip. And it is quite possibly the most magical thing in the world.

I can’t wait for this year’s trip!