Letting Go of the Balloon String

Summer is past its peak. Slowly, but surely, the days will begin to get shorter, the nights will become colder, and Staples and Wal-Mart will grow much, much more crowded. This can only mean one thing: the new school year is fast approaching.

And with the arrival of the scholastic year, there will come new beginnings. An excited toddler will experience his first day of kindergarten. A sleep-deprived 11th grader will experience his first all-nighter to catch up on the work she told herself she would finish the first week of summer. A senior will experience driving to school by himself for the first time.

But with all these beginnings, with all these firsts, there will come many endings, many lasts. And no group will feel the effects of such endings more than the soon-to-be college freshman. How do I know? In less than a week, I will be one of them.

And just as surely as the days of the summer continue to shorten, so too do the days of my childhood come to a close. Leaving for college does much more than simply just changing one's ZIP code; it removes the innocent coating of childhood from us. The title "young adult" is quite fitting: we are too young to be considered mature adults, yet we are too old to be considered innocent children.

And so, my soon-to-be college freshmen and I say our final goodbyes to adolescence. The rooms we grew up in begin to empty, the friends we grew up with begin to leave, and the distance -- both physical and psychological -- from the families we lived with our whole lives begins to grow. And while these final goodbyes are largely metaphorical -- technology has made us closer than ever before -- some of these final goodbyes are, in fact, final. I write this piece with a tear in my eye, having returned from the funeral of my beloved teacher and mentor Mr. Steve Bocian. I wish there was an App to let me say one final goodbye to him.

Lately, I have been contemplating the irony that is growing older. I wanted to grow up; I yearned for the independence that comes with it, but ignored its pitfalls. But now that adulthood is but a few days away, I cannot shake the overwhelming feeling of loss of child-like innocence. It may have taken over 18 years, but now I understand why adults smiled when I said I wanted to grow older. This delayed realization serves as an important reminder: it is only in hindsight that I can truly appreciate the innocent joys of childhood.

Currently, the wonders of adolescent life slip through my grasp like the string of a balloon being liberated. Weekends that were once devoted to video games and impromptu dance parties have now transformed into 48 unoccupied hours to catch up on sleep and schoolwork. Family movie nights have now become serious discussions about future goals and plans. Perhaps most poignant is falling asleep on the couch and no longer being gently hoisted to my room.

Do I know where life will take me? Not with any certainty. What I can say, however, is that I will cherish the time I have with the people I love, now that I have come to this realization. Maybe growing up isn't that bad, after all. Perhaps there might even be times where I can bask in that innocent joy again, walking along with balloon string in hand and pureness in my heart.