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To Neverland and Back Again: Growing Up and Slowing Down

Thursday, May 18, 2017

 

A few years ago, inspired by an advisee’s love of all things Potter, I came across this quote from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and I always think of it at this time of year: “It's a strange thing, but when you are dreading something, and would give anything to slow down time, it has a disobliging habit of speeding up.”

As spring begins, the skies are gray and everywhere is damp and muddy. Too quickly, March break seems long ago and students start dreaming of summer. Time seems to move at a snail’s pace. Then, as temperatures warm, excitement fills the air and time starts to gain momentum. By the end-of-year crunch, everyone is wishing for more time, especially our graduates. Reality is really starting to set in. With class trips, May Day, and now the musical behind us, it's exciting and terrifying all at once. As we get closer and closer to graduation and summer, teachers and students report that time seems to be speeding up! I am wishing I could just slow things down.

The 8th grade musical is one of the signs that summer is almost here. Peter Pan Jr. suited this class perfectly: their joyful natures, their camaraderie, and their “can-do” attitudes. Congratulations to the 8th graders for a truly memorable performance and to Ms. Bailes, Ms. Cassell, Ms. Blynn, and their team, not only for showcasing the group’s tremendous talent, but also for highlighting all the charm and personalities that are uniquely the Class of 2017.

This wish that I could stop time really struck me as I watched the play on Saturday. Wendy poignantly observes, “The Lost Boys aren’t ready to grow up, but I am.” Yes, she is, and yes, our boys—and girls—are, too. The reality of graduation hit me hard. I fought back some tears as we clapped for the 8th grade’s last performance. My emotions were compounded by my daughter’s role in the play, the thrill I knew she was enjoying being around such amazing “big kids,” and the fact that I was sitting next to her babysitter, a member of my first 7th grade class, there to cheer her on. I was reminded of how, in so many big and little ways, GUS is a special place. In that moment, as a teacher, I was overwhelmed at the thought of parting, yet comforted because I know these students will never truly leave us (they never really do). As a parent,  I was excited for all that my daughter has yet to experience, but still sad about how quickly time moves. Hurry up and slow down, there it was.

If you haven’t seen this video about slowing down time, grab some tissues and take a look. Written by a mother before her son’s 5th grade graduation, it  definitely highlights the slow-down wish. Still, as much as I want time to slow down, especially for my 8th graders, I also know they are ready for what’s next. Like Wendy, they’re ready to leave Neverland, and GUS. It’s time for them to trust and go forward! The meaning of our battle cry becomes so clear when I consider our graduates. It signifies their readiness—the readiness I  hear in their voices when they ask questions in class, share their thoughts in discussions, and laugh together (pretty much all the time).  I know with all my heart that they are ready for their next adventures and all they will experience when they march out of the tent and onto the next stage of their lives. They’ve done all we’ve asked them to. They’ve pushed themselves to try new things. They’ve gained understanding of who they are and who they want to be. And yet, this last month of school is the last night in the nursery, and I’m wishing I could keep them all here.

So what do we do? Well, I think that all of us—parents, students, and teachers—need to remember to slow down, not by stopping time but by enjoying it. We only pass this way once and must make every tick-tock count. Time is racing us, so we must breathe deep and dig deep. We must finish strong, and as busy as our days get, we must not wish them over too quickly. So, we will work hard and play hard, celebrate in big ways and in countless little ways, hug a little more and for a little longer, reach out and say “thank you” and “I care about you” in words and deeds. When the sun shines, we will soak it in, and when it comes time to march, we will march with love and pride. We will proceed with confidence, faith, and trust, knowing our graduates are ready to fly.

 

Gretchen Forsyth

Director of Upper School