The last day of Shad Valley Lakehead 2011 didn't ever begin. The preceding day continued until the moment the first two Shads to depart left at 5 am. The moment the Lakehead Shads were separated represented, for me, the end of Shad Valley. That is why I choose to write, this ''last day'' of Shad Valley, about a few special memories made and lessons learned this month.
There was perhaps no moment that I enjoyed most at Shad Valley than the moment my team exited the Shad Cup presentation room. The moment was one of pure relief and of pride.
There was something special, something touching about seeing the friends we had been with through the highs and lows of the experience don their finest attire and deliver business presentations with professionalism. It made me take a step back and realize that, wow, my fellow Shads were an impressive bunch! They were inspiring individuals that I could learn from and that I had in fact already learned from.
My fellow Shads helped me handle an issue I had been struggling with recently, as a new university student. A first year of university marked by stellar results, but even more so by sleep deprivation and frustration left me wondering if my weaknesses -a limited supply of energy and overwhelming test anxiety- would keep me from achieving my goals. I attributed my success during the year to motivation and zeal for what I do. However, it seemed to me that if I didn't keep running a never-ending marathon, I would ruin everything. It worried me that perhaps at some point motivation wouldn't be enough. I wondered if I should accept that my mere humanity would warrant my eventual failure.
Shad Valley taught me that even the most amazing star students -the concert musicians, the teen serial entrepreneurs, the kids who take all at math competitions- were just as human as I was. In the writing of the Shad Cup business plan, my Shad Cup Group had many ups and downs, but we nevertheless were able to write a business plan that garnered us the ''Best Business Plan'' award. My Shad Cup Group was made stronger by overcoming difficulties. Through the Shad Valley experience, I realized that I had legitimate strengths and that the weaknesses I had wouldn't hinder my success. Rather, weaknesses might help me become better. Taking a water break in the middle of the marathon would benefit me. This is just one of the lessons I have learned at Shad Valley.
I know that I will continue learning from my experiences as a Shad, even though my plane pierced through the clouds hovering over Thunder Bay, Ontario this afternoon. A month wasn't long enough to absorb all the new life experiences that I was exposed to at Shad Valley. Shad Valley has already changed the way I edit a paper (Perfection! The Shad Cup judges will see this.), give a high-5 (Watch the elbow!), and feel about pulling all-nighters (I can do it!). However, it will change so much more as time goes on. How could it not, when I have felt my perspective on life itself slowly evolving all month long into something more clear and more reassuring? When the people I have met at Shad are promising life-long friends? I feel that I will look back on Shad in future years, not just as one of the most memorable summers of my life, but also as the beginning of a new era in my life.
Shad was an action-packed socializing marathon that I would live forever if I could, but I am ready to go home now and dive back into the real world. I am ready to kick-start my post-Shad life.
Aurelie Pare, Shad Valley Lakehead'11
Hometown: Moncton, NB