I am eighteen. Eighteen eighteen eighteen. And this time last year, I couldn't believe I was going to be eighteen. It simply would not happen, because I couldn't picture it. I was seventeen and I had a magazine named after me, and I was ready for senior year.
I picked up my diploma today, and it was a weird experience. The short distance from my parking spot to the building, being right on top of a giant desert of asphalt, was gruellingly hot, and as I opened the door to the building a wall of cool air and the smell of cheap cleaning chemicals hit me. As I walked around the corner of the crosshall and up the stairs to the counseling office, I felt out of place - the classrooms were being gutted of desks and furniture in order to give the whole place a good cleaning, and all the orange-brown desks with multicolored chairs were turned on top of each other, tumbling all over the hallway. It smelled strongly of cleaner and of the thousands of layers of dust that collect in the back corners of janitor closets; and everything was tinted with that dim-fluorescent-light hue. Classroom doors were open, but the rooms were vacant - the teachers gone for the summer - but they all gave off a feeling of readyness for next year's batch to come on in. One teacher upstairs had already put up the little apples with smiley faces and pencils and rulers that we've known since elementary school, and an obligatory big tiger paw that said "Welcome back!" on her door. I found myself smirking at the hokeyness of overused paper cutouts (that have really never appealed to me, or to anyone, I think), and I was suddenly looking at the school from a different perspective - as an outsider. I was not a student here. I am an adult. This was not my school. I'd had a class in the next building over, and a locker that I never used in the building after that; but my school was a place I wasn't even familiar with, and wouldn't be able to navigate at all until around mid-September. My school won't have pointless lockers, or (I hope to God) hokey, stereotypical little paper cutouts for decorations. It will be where I live for the next four years - where I am, where my base of operations is, where my home is.
My sister and brothers are banding together in a desperate attempt to get me to move out of my room as quickly as possible. And while I'm letting Kelly have it, I don't really want to let it go. The school I can live without, but I've lived in this room since I was twelve. Aunt Karen painted stars on the wall and clouds on the ceiling for me, and Kelly's going to paint some lurid turquoise over them. And yes, I'm getting a dorm room - but it won't be my bed. And my bed is old (I must have been eight when I got it... yes, I still sleep on a twin mattress.) but it's so comfy; there's a "me" indention right in the middle, and I've heard that's bad for your back, but I don't care. I'm going to throw away the things I see no point in putting in the attic, and pack up what I can't take with me for storage - those boxes will sit alongside the boxes I labelled when we moved to the new house when I was eight, in a halting print and a fading black washable marker. What to take, and what to leave? Which aspects of Kate are going to persist till she's twenty-two? (My sharpie pants have to stay. They personify me, it's true... but they're falling apart.)
I really am in that part of life where home is not going to be home any more. I'm in that transition stage where I don't feel like I really belong in any particular place - not home as I've known it my whole life, but not college, either. And happening all at once, it's kind of terrifying. But in a really weird way... it's liberating. I'm not irrevocably tied to anything here at all, and I'm going to take a box of things to college with me, and that will be it - inside the box will be me. I'll have myself, and I'll be totally responsible for everything I do, right or wrong. I will be alone, by myself, until I get comfortable in my new base... but for the first time that I can recall, being at the mercy of my own complete responsibility doesn't sound overwhelming. It could be exciting, in fact.
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May 2, 2012 03:03 AM PDT
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