Preparing to move on from senior year

Laurel Wang | The Chronicle

At the end of the summer before my senior year, my mom came into the house bearing the fruits of the season — a handful of cherry tomatoes from our garden. The tomatoes were ripe and sweet, but all I could think about was how I would not be here to see next year’s harvest.

During freshman year, the four years of high school seemed to stretch out forever into the liminal hallways of MHS, a stumbling block I had to push through to get to the good parts of adulthood. But now as a senior, the safe bubble that high school provides seems to be quickly disappearing as I fill out endless college applications to faraway places. I cannot count the number of times I have written down my address as Mason, Ohio, but how many times will I be able to say that in the future?

For something that has occupied a large part of my waking hours, the prospect of never returning to MHS feels like an abrupt end. We will lose the cocoon that has shielded us from the real world and face real, hard decisions about our future. Come next fall, the halls of MHS will fill once again for another year of school, but I will not be part of it. Instead, I will be an outsider, observing high school vicariously through Instagram posts and anecdotes. As my life goes on, I will move on from Mason, but I forget that it will also continue without me.

Some of us have chosen to continue our education by heading to college, living alone for the first time and assuming very adult debt. Others are choosing to serve their country, shouldering immense responsibility in the military. A few are planning on taking gap years to travel or earn money, leaving student life to join the workforce. Although we are all MHS students in the present, the future is already spinning us out into different directions.

I always expected to have to do these things, but it never felt real until now – now that I am breaking down the costs of living and debt, the choice of a major that will set up at least the next few years of college and jobs, the reality of leaving my family, who have been attuned to my idiosyncrasies over the years, to live with strangers. 

Even visits home will only be temporary retreats into our childhood selves.  The notion of leaving high school is fleeting, but we still have senior year and all of the traditions and experiences that each feel streaked by their finality. Last homecoming, last football game, last fall in Mason. I wonder if I am experiencing a form of premature homesickness, mourning a childhood far before it’s even reached its climax. 

We must do our best to soak up the time we have as high schoolers, and that could mean actually looking beyond school. After all, in a few years, that test grade or group project will be forgotten. What we will remember will be preserved in the emotion of experiences that we only get in high school. 

I cannot predict how senior year will shake out, nor how I will change in the coming years after high school. Premature worrying about my future does no good when I’ve still got math homework to puzzle out and I know I am headed back to MHS tomorrow at 7:45 a.m.