Maren Larsen

My life began with a blank piece of paper. A doctor filled out my parents’ names and mine and put a date on my birth certificate, stating that I exist and identifying me from that point onward. There have been so many papers in my life: ones covered in finger-paints, ones folded into origami cranes, ones with scribbled notes between gossipy middle school girls, ones covered in mathematical equations and grammar notes.

But somehow, the page I wrote this editorial on was the most intimidating yet. It was empty and full of expectations: I have to say something brilliant, something inspiring, and something funny. But I felt done—empty of ideas.

Everything about graduation seems cliché—what can I possibly say that hasn’t been beaten to death? Writing my college application essays was hard—but not this hard. Maybe it’s because this is goodbye.

On this paper is an accumulation of all of my stories. From my steps and words to my first day of school, the first time I wrote my name, the first book I read, and the first friends I made, everything has lead up to this. And, if there is anything that my senior year has taught me, it is that there is wisdom to be found in looking back. It’s time to remember how I got here.

I grew up in Estes Park, Colo., a small town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. I am an only child of two National Park Service employees. They had lived in Estes for ten years before I was even born.

I grew up there, fully expecting to stay there until I left for college, so I was shocked when, four years before my expected departure date from the safe and secure mountains of my childhood, my family moved here.

Moving radically altered my outlook on the world. The differences between Colorado and Utah, the mountains and the desert, were stark. Everything that had been varying shades of blue and green was now red. The temperatures were staggering. Pine trees had been replaced with cottonwoods and granite had been usurped by cliffs of sandstone. I felt like I was living on another planet.

The aliens were friendly, though.

They helped me pick up the pen to start the next chapter of my life, titled “Moab” or “Growing Up.” I was pleasantly surprised by how many people talked to me and befriended me in my first few weeks at school. Everyone was so welcoming, from the group of friends who took me under their collective wing from the start to the teachers who listened to my endless questions and the community members who encouraged me to be involved.

During my freshman year, I joined every club or activity that called my name. I got involved in debate and Earth Club, which turned into my biggest passions. I joined the track team, which didn’t turn out quite as well, but introduced me to a wealth of new people.

In the next few years, I ran for student government, joined HOPE Club, Art Club, Honor Society, and iMatter Utah, volunteered at places that interested me, tried out volleyball and tennis. I worked at a restaurant and here at the“Moab Sun News”. Even though every activity didn’t stick, I grew from each one. I became a better leader, a better participant, and I learned how to manage my time so that I could fit it all in.

The receptiveness of the Moab community to new people and ideas made it easy for me to write my story just the way I wanted.

While most people say that senior year is about choices, the past year has felt like series of high-stakes lottery games. Though I didn’t know where to start, I had to decide which colleges to apply to, what scholarships to write essays for, and which challenges were worth the effort.

Every decision I made this year seemed amplified by my looming departure, but somehow, everything fell into place. By some miracle and the extraordinary work of my parents, teachers, and counselors, I took the right tests, filled out the right lines, and made the right phone calls. Now I’m on course to attend Drexel University in Philadelphia, and I couldn’t be more excited.

I have many blank pages ahead of me and new chapters to write. The truth is, at some point we all have to stare at that blank piece of paper and not know where to start. But somewhere in the blank white void, an idea will emerge.

We can trust that the paper will fill, the words will spill out, and a new chapter will begin.