A letter to my students, on a night they were alive

Dear Jordan, Justin, Louise, Kiko, Ariana, Julie, Saskia, Katie, Clare, Nick, Andrea, Steven and Darren,

Tonight you were fifteen and yet brimming with a wisdom so beyond your years. You were the inhabitants of characters written into history, and yet discovered newly in these last weeks, lit aflame under the power of your sheer determination. This project is the first of the year in grade ten, your second and final pass, your time under the lights, and it begins outside yourself.

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine, Alive as you or me, Tearing through these quarters In the utmost misery, With a blanket underneath his arm And a coat of solid gold, Searching for the very souls Whom already have been sold.

You began in seeking someone else, someone outside, in whom you found a connection that you may not have even understood at the time. And in doing so somewhere along the way you realized that recognizing yourselves, and realizing your passions in the wider world is the path by which you best access your truest selves. Inevitably the way became difficult – that is, after all, the point of the exercise – and in the end the test was not of your devotion to the studied person, but to yourself.

“Arise, arise,” he cried so loud, In a voice without restraint, “Come out, ye gifted kings and queens And hear my sad complaint. No martyr is among ye now Whom you can call your own, So go on your way accordingly But know you’re not alone.”

Tonight you made good on oaths you’ve sworn to yourselves, but also one another. Watching, it seems as though you have promised to hold one another to the unspoken-yet-agreed-upon task each of you has set for themselves: to be the best that you can be, to do the best that you can do, and to do so with an appreciation for the present moment’s influence on these results. As it often does, fear has a way of getting in the way of accomplishing these feats, and in these moments you are there to see one another through. The results are evening’s like this one, when for an hour thirteen of you can march to the front of an auditorium packed full – of parents, teachers and administrators, alumni and siblings, aunts, grandparents, teachers’ in-laws – and stand tall in the shoes (and wigs, and burkas, and eyebrows and scarves) of others. And yet what has emerged is not the essence of the studied person, but the power latent in your bones, written in your genes.

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine, Alive with fiery breath, And I dreamed I was amongst the ones That put him out to death. Oh, I awoke in anger, So alone and terrified, I put my fingers against the glass And bowed my head and cried.

Tonight you reigned in triumph, and I hope that you each savour what this experience has revealed of the possibility you hold within yourselves. You will know success in this life for what tonight has taught you about the personal nature of success, the irrationality of fear and the necessity of friendship. Do not despair that you only get to experience the tonight’s of life but once apiece. They are only tests to give you strength for the examinations you will be soon be free to embark upon under your own steam. We owe it to the present moment, and to our present selves, to live as the sum of our experiences, and with tonight you mark certainly that you possess the raw material to write your own life’s work of eminence. I stand in awe at your strength and determination to courageously explore, discover and express your unique voices in this world.

Thank you for letting me bear witness to this most personal of truths, and most universal of  beauties.

5 thoughts on “A letter to my students, on a night they were alive

  1. I feel like I’ve been informed of an upcoming Jackson assisignment, it’s called Life. Though not alone in this future undertaking, it sure feels like a grand and lonely peak.

  2. I agree with you Steven that life is a daunting assignment, but I think that part of the point of Mr. J’s post was to say that it is not “a lonely peak.” We are all in it together and each one of us is here to support each other in this journey. Together, amazing things can happen: like yesterday.

Comments are closed.