Ben’s message to year 12s: Celebrate your mates

By Ben O’Toole

1 November 2017

I’ve been in your shoes before. Many years ago now but it feels like yesterday. I remember sitting in your position and looking at my mates, feeling excited to just get exams over with so we could get on with life. Summer was just around the corner, schoolies was on the agenda and I could barely contain my excitement.

The thing is, when I was in school, I took my mates for granted. When you’re in school, you have five days a week, 40 odd weeks a year to build lifelong friendships and memories that you will treasure forever. But that closeness, it stops today. After you get through exams, the rest of your life begins.

For the first two years out of school, so much will change. Some of your friends will move away, get girlfriends or boyfriends, go to Uni overseas or interstate or start working full-time. Suddenly, seeing each other everyday becomes a lot harder.

Nothing makes you realise what’s important like having it taken away. Do you ever think about how much your friends mean to you?

For my group of mates, my assault is what it took to strengthen our relationship and made me acutely aware of how important they were to me. As a bloke from Geelong, I didn’t grow up encouraged to show affection to my mates – as far as I thought, men were supposed to keep their emotions in check.

My friends made me feel normal again. They treated me like they always had by making me laugh and taking the piss and I can’t thank them enough for it. My friends were my life support. It shouldn’t take a near death experience to tell your mates you love them, so when you’re out celebrating the end of exams in a couple of weeks, tell them how you feel.

For now, good luck with exams, celebrate every moment and make this summer one to remember.