In Depth Night – Liam

In-Depth Night is kind of TALONS’ graduation. It isn’t really, of course – we still have another month together. But it’s our last major event for the year, the culmination of months of practice and study and anticipation. Once In-Depth is over, we’re back to normal class,  back to working and (in theory) studying. The happiness that all students feel as summer draws closer is tempered for us by the knowledge that another year of TALONS is ending, with all the sadness, melancholy, and indeed, relief, which that knowledge brings.

But as much as In-Depth is an ending, that’s not what it is about. It is a celebration of what we have accomplished over the course of the last five months. More than than that, it’s a recognition of all that we have been through in TALONS, all we have shared and experienced together. I don’t think words do it justice – we who were there, who spent months preparing for that night, are the only ones who can really understand what it meant. But for the many people who see us from afar, who have not had the opportunity to participate in TALONS, I’d like to share a few pictures of that night, which I think represent the mood and feel rather well.

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Sustainability in action

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And that was it. It was over. The grade 9s have another year to look forward to. The grade 10s can only look back wistfully, remembering the times over the last few years. In-Depth Night is really a very special time, and all the more so in hindsight. Personally, I didn’t realize at the time how significant it was, and it was only later that it hit me. ‘Wow’, I thought. ‘I will never get to do that again.’ It’s a realization, I think, that becomes more meaningful with time.

Of course most of the grade 10s will be at In-Depth next year, but this time we’ll be on the outside looking in, rather than the other way around. I’m trying not to let this post dissolve into a reflection on what life will be like after leaving TALONS, but In-Depth night is so caught up in that idea of a celebration of another year that it’s difficult to separate the two.

Let me recede, then, from this position. There will likely be a few more reflections on the end of TALONS in the weeks to come. I would rather mention the successes we had last Monday.  Everyone who performed onstage – you were amazing. Getting up in front of that crowd could not have been easy, yet you did it and you all did so brilliantly. For those who did not perform onstage, your achievement is no less great simply for being on the ground. Every person presented what they have been working on in the way they thought best, and we all had things to teach and to show the people who visited us.

And what would In-Depth Night be without honouring the achievements of the people involved? Congratulations Megan Edmunds, for working hard enough to earn the Grade 9 Academic Award. Daniel Luo, Iris Hung, and Rebecca MacDonald, recipients of the TALONS spirit award, I think we are all proud to know you and you most certainly deserved to be recognized for your spirit and dedication to this program.

But perhaps the most important recognition was the one we students gave to Ms. Mulder and Mr. Jackson. TALONS would not be possible without you, and every word in our speeches was true. Any worldwide readers of this blog, if ever you think about the awesomeness of TALONS (which I’m sure you all do), make sure the credit goes to our amazing teachers.

We closed up the evening with a song, and I will leave you with this now. Cute and perhaps silly it may be, but…well, take it for what you will. It was our gift to our teachers, and it means something to all of us.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFKEXiPQaqs&w=640&h=390]

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.

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Are you perfect? – Rebecca

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you were smarter? Prettier? Richer? More talented? If somehow, by a small chance of fate, you owned the winning lottery ticket? Have you ever wished that your life was just like the lives of celebrities on those superficial reality shows that you always make fun of? If your life was, for lack of a better word, perfect?

I am not perfect. Nor will I ever be. Nobody is ever perfect, yet most expect no less. Many say that you should always strive for perfection, because if you aim to be perfect, you will achieve excellence. But excellence isn’t always good enough, because you know that the only reason you got to that point was because you tried so hard to be more, to be perfect. Excellence is not perfection, and perfection was your goal. Therefore by attaining excellence, you have failed.

Is this the world we live in? An endless downward spiral of disappointments and failures, never satisfied because we know that it could always be better? If you win an Olympic gold medal, the public expects you to win another. One simply isn’t good enough. You found the cure to a fatal disease? Good for you, now what about the rest of them? Why haven’t you found a solution for cancer yet? Oh look! You got all As on your report card! Now how come you only got 89% in Math?

Teenagers constantly complain about parents ‘never’ being satisfied. I love my family more than anything, and I have a great relationship with my parents but even I sometimes can’t stand their contradictions. For years, all I ever heard was “Stop reading, get out of the house. You need to work at your friendships and get outside more. Why don’t you ask if Breanna wants to come over? How come you never play with your friends?” Now, I’m told on a regular basis that I need to spend more time at home, with my family, or doing homework. Why haven’t I picked up a book in over a month? Why must I spend so much time with friends. What is the point of going to the mall if you aren’t going to buy anything? Get up, you’re going to be late for school. You need to spend more time on your schoolwork. Then, why do you have so much homework? You need to get more sleep!

And on and on and on. I’m sure almost every child, every parent, every boss and employee and teacher and student faces these problems every day. You can’t please everyone. And more often than not, you can’t even please just one person. There’s always something wrong, or something that could be better. ‘Good’ is not acceptable. ‘Excellent’ is rarely good enough. If you truly want everyone to love and admire and respect you, you need to be perfect.

Of course, no one likes someone with no flaws. Why do you always have to make the rest of us look bad? Stop being such a snob.

It is only human to make mistakes, I suppose. And I think one of our biggest flaws, as an entire species, is not being able to accept that we make these mistakes. And I genuinely wish that we could accept ourselves for every little imperfection that makes us who we are. But I can’t judge, because I know that I’m one of the worst for not being able to accept myself. Sure I could list pages and pages of every mistake I’ve made in the past week. But acknowledging is not the same as accepting; I would also be able to come up with three different excuses for each one. I have a hard time admitting when something at all connected to me is wrong, or even just less than perfect. I suppose most people do, it’s not like I’m any worse than others. But it feels like that. It feels like I am so perfectionistic and obsessive about making everyone happy, that I forget to let myself by happy.

About a week ago, I got a huge wakeup call. I had spent so much time, I had wasted so much time, worrying about pleasing others, and not letting myself be happy, that in the end, no one was happy. Half of the time I was acting like a three-year old, whiny and obnoxious. The other half of the time, I was a depressed blob. A blob. And I was dragging everyone else down with me. My little brother was terrified of me, carefully tiptoeing around the house not wanted to say or do the wrong thing. My dad, already teenager-phobic, wouldn’t have a proper conversation with me. Only single, monosyllabic words. But my mother, trained in the art of dealing with bratty teens, had had enough. So she confronted me, and told me exactly what I needed to hear. Not what I necessarily wanted to hear, but certainly what I needed. She explained exactly how exasperated she was with being patient and putting up with me. It’s fine for a day, maybe two, maybe even a week. But you can’t be miserable forever. So I pulled myself together, and took charge of my life. It’s not like anything was really going wrong in the first place, I was just taking it with the wrong attitude. At first I thought my mom was being unreasonable, of course. I can’t just change my entire outlook on life, right? And I wasn’t even being that bad in the first place….right?

But I was, of course I was. Mothers are always right. There, I said it. And that’s what I said to my mom, which is why it’s now in writing, signed, on a piece of paper on the door of my fridge. ‘Mothers always know best (most of the time)’, and there it will remain until I change my mind again, only to be proven wrong yet again by an almost annoyingly superb mother. In the end, I didn’t change my entire outlook on life. I just remembered what it was like to live for myself, not for others, something which I hadn’t even realized I’d forgotten.

So you can’t be perfect. You can’t always be the best. And you can’t change who you are in one day just because you had a fight with your mom. But you can be happy. You can love yourself. The vulnerabilities, the flaws and imperfections, the mistakes, and the frustrations, but most of all, the beauty, the talent, the personality, and all of those amazing things that you probably never knew existed. Maybe you still haven’t found them yet. But don’t worry, one day someone will show you. [Thanks Mom]

~Rebecca