The End of it All. Actually. – Eminent 2015

Well that’s it I guess. Like, really it.

With a total of three field excursions, three interviews (both locally and globally), 13 blog posts, 2 speeches, and countless hours of research and preparation, I am finally done. Done it all, sadly, yet gladly. Many are joyous right now, that they have completed it all, finished all the tasks ticked all the boxes, not to say of course learnt tons along the way as well. But I am somewhat sad, or almost in between the two emotions somewhere.

This year’s eminent was very different from last year’s for me. It came at me out of the blew, I wasn’t ready to decide who to study, not ready to go on my last library field trip with my amazing classmates in TALONS, not ready to prepare my speech or even write blog posts again, but it happened. It came, and it went, as everything does in this world. Nonetheless, it is not merely sadness nor in any way regret for this project that sits with me now as I write my final eminent reflection, but rather a sense of pride, hope, and completion. Unlike last year’s post where I was so overwhelmed with all the newness of  everything that happens on a big TALONS night in and I finished with my word that I chose at closing circle, I am going to start with my word, and talk about what everything meant to me this year, how I felt.

This year, we did not formally have a closing circle at the end of the night at least we didn’t go around and reflect on what we had just done like last year. However, many of us still thought to ourselves that night of a word that described what we individually had just experienced, a word that showed how we had done, how our friends had done, and how the guests had been, a word that suited us and also our projects. This is a fairly difficult task as you could imagine, considering all the different parts that go into such a big culminating event. There are two ways to approach this sort of task, I have learnt since last year’s eminent night, choosing a word off the top of your head that comes to mind at first thought, or thinking long and hard about the perfect one that you will remember forever. All in all, the results of these two options are often the same. Nonetheless, as I was already at home when I remembered to do this, I took the long route, unlike last year.

When all was said and done, I settled on the word ‘love’. As I’ve mentioned before, and am beginning to realize is somewhat of a continuing theme and also goal for me this year, is how special spending time with friends is and developing new relationships.

This theme came in to play from the beginning of the night when we were setting up our learning centres. A friend from outside of TALONS offered to help me, which I greatly appreciated as I had a very extensive centre especially in terms of set-up and, difficulty of set-up shall we say. As they say, many hands make light work, and as there was two of us hanging my giant sandbag wall from the ceiling at the front of my locker bay became a lot easier as we could have one person on top of the bay and one ripping tape below. This was such a kind act that really helped me stay on track and on time as like last year, I almost didn’t finish before dinner, additionally, in similarity, I had to make a couple last minute paint touch ups to finish off my centre and I almost ran out of time. And it didn’t exactly help that we had a surprise early guest arrival, but not in any way am I going to say that this arrival was a bad thing.

You see, this guest, was the one and the only TALONS alumni, Kim Venn. Now some of you may remember that Kim was the afternoon TALONS class’s peer tutor for second semester last spring, and then also joined us on the adventure trip. Let’s just say, that I highly respect her and all the amazing work that she does in many different areas. I also got to know Kim a bit on the adventure trip and also through Me to We last year, so it was sad when she graduated as she is four years older than me. Anyways, I had just been rushing back to the TALONS room to grab some red paint for a couple spot touches, when I peeled around the corner and Elyssa calls to me while doing so that Kim has arrived. So, as you may expect, I was quite excited, I proceeded to sprint to my station and drop the paint and brush down in the hall in front of it, meanwhile Nicole, who also knew Kim quite well, and I am very good friends with, comes rushing over to me and points down the stairwell to where none-other than Kim is standing. Long-story short, we had a nice reunion downstairs as well as getting some expert tips on our speeches before returning to finish up prep on our stations. I thought it was very nice of Kim to spend some time giving us some very useful tips on how to practice and be confident in our speeches, and some tools to use if we ever got stuck.

Then after our final preps, and our tasty dinners, we had our last rehearsals on stage. Getting those jitters out didn’t really come till when it was all over for me, and even then there was positive jitters. I had a practice with my sound effect for the ending of my speech, and began to feel the elevation of the stage, physically, emotionally, and mentally. But there was still around an hour to go. An hour until I set foot into the battlefield of Pervyse, and dashed out in to No-Man’s Land to save lives.

This hour was where I really got the word love from. I think this was my favourite part of the night. The two hours it all happens. You clear the stage a final time, the curtains are closed. Then, you hear the guests load the theatre. As I had pictured, and remembered, and watched last year, we as a team of tens, not only classmates or friends but a true team for a night, with one goal and purpose, huddled up backstage.

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(Photo Credits to James Liggins (grade nine backstage project manager))

Putting out arms around each other we knew that we were all in it together. I was still super nervous, oh yeah definitely, that did not go away, but I felt confident, and that my purpose was not only to make sure that I nailed my speech, but also to make sure everyone else did as well. Then we split up one final time, our first act group remaining behind the curtains, prepping, and practicing, and talking, and breathing, and focusing, and remembering, and then…

it began.

Once one goes, there is no turning back, you will be up soon. I rehearsed my speech many times backstage, silently and whispering lightly behind the second curtain. I also helped Julia work through hers many times so that she was as comfortable as possible for that moment when she walked on stage. We worked through the speeches. One would go on, and a minute or so later come off, breathing or laughing or smiling or wanting a hug, they had done it. This was where I felt the real love of the night. Our ‘team’ was so supportive of everyone. I had to wait till second last in the act, but everyone even if they had already gone was so positive and reinforcing. the kept saying that I was going to kill it, I was going to do fine. And then the moment came, Chris, the performer before me, went on stage. There wasn’t enough time to practice again, I had no choice. Just ‘breath’ and make sure everything is ready. Everyone gave me some final reassurances as I really began to panic. And then I went into the curtain.

That five seconds before I stepped onstage were some of the most nerve-racking I have ever experienced, and then you just have to step out.

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Me writing in my war journal about the daily struggles (my speech)

At the end of it all I got to go for a run, down out into No Man’s Land, and then back behind the trenches again. When I reached the top of the stairs seeing a couple of my friend’s faces, I fist-pumped and jumped about three feet in the air. I was just straight pumped. I had done it. I had made it back from No Man’s Land alive. I hadn’t been killed or shot done, and I hadn’t forgotten the soldier along the way.

The  we got to relax and watch all the other speeches upstairs. It was painful watching a couple of our teamates stumble on a few words, we were all wishing them to success, we all supported each other no matter the outcome. In the end we all did survive. And as Mr. Jackson said, we are now what you could call “Senior TALONS”.

I enjoyed visiting with some old grade 11 classmates at my learning centre, though I was in character. I did my best to answer guests’ questions as best I could trying to cover all perspectives while in the one voice of Mairi Chisholm. I did my best, trying to answer questions such as why did you choose Mairi Chisholm by explaining how we weren’t just ordinary nurses and we really were just doing our part with the men. I was also very proud of myself for keeping up my British accent the whole night, and this was particularly fulfilling when I got the honest approval of a few Brits themselves who visited my station!

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Me as Mairi Chisholm in front of my sandbagged Cellar House (learning centre).

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Makeshift medical treatment bed in our cellar house with dirtied brick wall.

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An old chair inside our cellar house with my satchel and a spare shirt(authentic Second World War use by my grandfather).

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Some stored materials in our cellar house.

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Table with hot chocolate set up for wearied soldiers in from the trenches (modern kettles used for actual hot chocolate served) 

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A look at our small workspace in the cellar house.

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Some of the important tools handy for quick use: a lantern, water, string, scissors, morphine. 

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Me in my cellar house posing on the bed.

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A red cross on the outside of our house to make it clear we aren’t here to do any harm. Just inside you can see a dirty stretcher.

I think I can say that I tried my best to represent the truly outstanding person that Mairi Chisholm was and also her partner in Elsie Knocker, and I hope that if either of them could see me on our Night of the Notables that they would be proud of me and more importantly them. I am very glad that I managed to find such an amazing person to study for this project and I will always remember her remarkable story. And in regard to the love theme, well I just loved studying these two and this project in general, I had so much fun!

That love amongst our team was felt right to the end of the night when we all said bye to each other. And as we didn’t do an official closing circle, I think it was in a way symbolic. That for us as tens, though it is the end this project forever, it’s just the beginning of a future, beyond TALONS, and as a new program this year, it is just the beginning of something new! So as they say in High School Musical, “It’s the start of something new,  it feels so right to be here with you”, because it truly did.

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