In a couple of weeks it will be Thanksgiving, my last as a full-time kid and full-time resident in my household. A year from now I will be returning to my parental home for Thanksgiving. I will greet family after a long drive. Things will look different and I will notice more, like the colors of the rugs and the scuffs on wall corners.
My vision stops there. I know nothing of where I will come home from or what that place will look like; my desired options are too different from each other to form a compromise image. Is it crazy that college applications take such a position in my mind, yet I can’t clearly picture where they will take me?
It may be inappropriate for me to bring up this reflection so early in the year. It is, after all, only November. I should act traditionally and save the matter for graduation season. But something-that something being the students around me-gives this topic urgency. There are people in my class whose ambitions carry them to prestigious schools, ones who will study far away for the sake of it, and ones who will stay in Santa Barbara. It really doesn’t matter where everyone will go because we will all share the same shift in life, a marked and nearly universal shift.
The majority of seniors in my class will not go to college outside of Santa Barbara, but as I said, I don’t think that’s the key thing about this shift: Distance only gives this separation from home, family, and childhood a more tangible feel. What I’m drawn to is how graduating from high school, so seemingly simple, creates such a change.
The tradition of leaving after high school makes the adjustment almost visible. We watch each other break off from the known, and land somewhere else. That is why, I’ve decided, I am writing about this in November: Thanksgiving is a holiday we mark things by. “Uncle Jim was in Europe last Thanksgiving.” “We almost burned the stuffing two years ago.” I’m not too nostalgic, more interested that this last childhood Thanksgiving-and next year’s first Thanksgiving as a returning child-are markers, and markers to share with others at that.