Here I am, one month into my senior year of high school and my last year as a child of Santa Fe. I don't feel a radical contrast between my junior and current selves—it's like having a birthday, when everyone asks you, "So how does it feel to be 17?"
Now, it's "How does it feel to be a senior?" and "What colleges are you looking at?" and "Oh, you're applying? Well my hamster's breeder's boyfriend's nephew went to Duke—you should check it out!" In my mother's Canyon Road store, clients I met unconsciously, at the age of two, assault me with advice, connections and reassurances, attributing their happiness to attending Vanderbilt, Colby, Pitzer or wherever. I remind myself through gritted teeth that these customers—strangers, really—do mean well. I should be thankful that other people in the world sympathize with me and actually give a damn if I'm untangling this interminable web of Common App supplements, rep meetings, "top choice" and ACT score comparisons, this wondering about the future, this waiting for a college visit to precipitate that "This feels right" feeling.
But in reality, the whole balancing act is on me. Only I can click “Submit” on my applications. I’m the one who’ll decide where I’m going, what I’ll do with my life, what I learn, what I see—whether I’ll be a waitress, or a journalist, or a hermit in Newfoundland. I can decide to let these mountains and this blue sky cradle me forever, feed me green chile until I’m wrinkled and brittle. Or I could let them nudge me into the wide world that I want to discover. I think, for now at least, that I’ve resolved to make this my last year here and take a running jump into that great beyond. My decision to embark on this take-off might well be based on a lifetime of conditioning to succeed in ever-increasing levels of learning as a “responsible member of society.” Yet however true that may be, I’ve still made college my goal.
A year from now, I’ll be meeting a roommate and cramming my jeans and skirts and lacrosse stick and camera into my dorm closet. I’ll be leaving a childhood behind and starting to figure out what the heck I want my existence to look like. But right now, I just want to pay homage to the stunningly quirked state that’s helped me grow up and spread out. Of course, I’ll always come back. That’s why Christmas, Thanksgiving, summer, and the rest of my life exist. True, this year is about slackening 17-year-old ties with Santa Fe so that my roots can reach beyond it. But this year, and especially this fall, is my time to do and see and feel New Mexico to the max, more acutely than I have before. I’ve never been to the Balloon Fiesta, never visited White Sands, never bought tchotchkes at a flea market.
So for all of my readers out there, you will be important parts of my bucket list-esque journey by making suggestions for the next event to see, the next food to eat, the next mountain to climb. This is the Year of Enchantment, Reflection, Lasts and Firsts. Even as I'm moving towards the threshold, consumed by the future, there's still so much to behold in each five-oh-five moment.