Head of School’s Notebook: Endings

May 12, 2023

I asked the students at my Formal Dinner table on Monday what they are looking forward to in the remaining small portion of the school year. “The Sunset Ceremony,” said one. “I just love that time together with everyone, even though it makes me kind of sad, too.”

“I like the video yearbook,” said another. One student was looking forward to Wednesday’s CIF lacrosse game. Several said that they don’t really look forward to the end of the year – strange as that may sound.

I take that to mean that they don’t want the associations they have come to cherish to end or change. Most are ready to complete their course of study. They should be. Our students have worked hard and have earned the change of pace and focus that summer brings. No doubt those returning to the Mesa in the fall will bring back all manner of stories of their adventures beyond this place.

I will be sorry not to be here to hear those tales and to feel the energy of this campus as the next school year begins. It is the rare person who can claim to enjoy change. Many of us will note the benefits of some transition after the fact. But, it is hard to stand on the brink of one, or the end of something you have come to know and love, and be eager for the new phase.

The seniors in the Lincoln class that Mr. Newsome and I teach together had their final meeting earlier this week. Many are headed out on various trips to the San Juan River with American Wilderness or to Santa Rosa with a host of Science and Art classes. On Monday, we broke down some of the works we have studied in preparation for the paper the kids are working on. They advocated energetically that the paper be “optional.” In fact, a vote was taken with unanimous support for the “optional” option – although there were more votes logged than there are students in the class, leaving Mr. Newsome and me with some real questions about the integrity of the feedback.

I will miss those moments, entertaining as they are. Our students will too. Perhaps no one does want to write the paper, but they don’t really want the class to end either. That is the conundrum of this time of year. And it is not something we can simply explain away or suddenly make each other feel good about.

When you are involved in an endeavor and a relationship you give your whole self to, you don’t just step away. You mourn the loss of the purpose you have known and the partners you have come to value. You feel the strange sadness associated with finishing something, however ready you might be for that conclusion. And you remember fondly the moments that made the experience so powerful. We get lost a bit in the recollection of it all.

It is not easy to let something special go. It can feel like a burden – this ending – but it isn’t really. It’s just the difficult byproduct of a worthy journey.

As one senior noted recently, “At least we know we’ll never forget this time, these people, and this place.” No, we won’t.

That is a comfort.