Maren Larsen

I mark my life by traditions. The years have passed by on a sort of schedule, colored by seasonal routines and holiday rituals. As soon as the summer starts cooling down, before every TV station is running ads for cheap jeans and backpacks and before class schedules get sent out, my inner clock tells me it’s time to go back to school. This time of year, I always have a primal longing to buy sweaters and notebooks and sharp pencils. I’ve been doing it for twelve years, and it’s become a habit—one that I’m going to have to break.

I’m about to be a senior in high school, and I’m facing this experience for the last time. It’s time to think about how I’m going to revise this tradition for my college years. Going back to school this year already doesn’t feel quite the same.

I’m going through the same motions, but the feeling behind them is different. I still have to buy school supplies, take school pictures, and soak up the last few rays of worry-free summer sun, but this is also the last year I will live with my parents, have to ask to go hang out with my friends, go to work only for extra cash, and borrow the family car.

College is a big step, and it’s made to seem even bigger by the sheer number of emails and letters I have been receiving. There are applications and scholarships, test scores, competitions, and college visits. The process of transitioning into this new lifestyle of living on my own is more complicated than I could have ever anticipated.

For the first time, most of my decisions are mine alone. I can choose which school I attend, what classes I take, where I live, how much money I spend, and how hard I work. It’s all up to me.

The concept of moving out is as frightening as it is exciting. It’s an experience that introduces a whole new spectrum of things I’m going to have to do by myself. Going grocery shopping, paying bills, killing spiders, making meals, cleaning, doing laundry, fixing things—the list goes on and on. It’s not that I can’t do these things or that I haven’t done them before, but doing them all on my own is quite a bit more intimidating.

Last week, my mom came back from the store with a surprise for me: one box of 64 brand-new, well-sharpened Crayola crayons. She seemed to think that that one essential school supply was necessary to elevate my back to school experience. The funniest part is that my friend and I actually used them. We spent over an hour coloring. Our drawings were slightly more sophisticated than the ones we made when we first started using crayons as an art medium, but they provided the same level of entertainment as always.

Taking this short trip back to my childhood reminded me that I’m not actually doing this on my own. Whether I decide to go to college in Salt Lake or New York City, my parents will still be there to remind me that I don’t have to grow up just yet. They will be there to support me, catch me when I fall, be a shoulder to cry on, offer emergency cash, cook a meal for me, tuck me in, or even travel long distances to see me on short notice. Moving out is just another step on my way to independence, but it isn’t the last one. If I need help or I’m stuck in a tough situation, I still have plenty of people willing to give me advice or a helping hand.

I still have a whole year of high school to enjoy before college really looms over me. I still have football games to go to, dances to attend, books to read, and tests to take. I still have so many opportunities to make my mark on my school, my friends, and Moab. I just can’t waste them.

Knowing that this is my last chance to experience high school has already given me a new perspective. This new way of looking at things can do nothing but good. I’ve already resolved to only take fulfilling classes and participate in activities I enjoy. I may only be 17, but it’s never too early to be reminded to live life to the fullest. If I play my cards right, at the end of this year, I’ll be smart enough, wise enough, and prepared enough to make it in the real world.