There will probably never be another time in your life when you say goodbye so much as when you are 18 years old. That summer is the grand finale of your life as a dependent. The final summer of security at home, the final time together with all your friends, the final time you'll ever have your laundry done for you. A desperate sensation clings in the air as children everywhere go into denial and hiding from those three frightening words - back to school. Yet for those with the graduated status, the saying becomes forward to school, forward to the future. Not just any old future either but your own future. From this point on you make your own decisions, your own mistakes, and your own living. The word freedom has never meant so much and personally I find it to be a terrifying and glorious adventure.
I have never felt more ready to spread my wings and fly, but as the time of departure nears, the reality of leaving the nest makes me shudder at the thought of the jump. The natural questions pop into my head, "Am I ready? What if I can't handle something? What if I need my parents advice? What if, what if, what if?" A million thoughts worry my head but deep down a sense of knowing speaks, "Are we ever really ready for change?"
As I wonder about life outside of the pouch another thought falls atop the first, "Can I handle my path?" As I watch my friends walk down the road marked college, I turn nervously toward my road marked NET otherwise know as National Evangelization Team. www.netusa.org NET is a Catholic volunteer program based in St. Paul, Minn. Since 1981 they have been sending out teams of young adults to travel across the United States to share their Catholic faith with over 60,000 youth on NET retreats. I feel honored to have been accepted as one of the 100 who will dedicate a year of their lives to God before I head off to Franciscan University of Steubenville. Mixed feelings of fear and excitement dwell within me as I look towards my future and that of my peers. I laugh at my friends as I watch them buy new school supplies and try to organize their schedules, excited that I get a year break from books, teachers, and studying. Yet in the back of my mind a fearful nervousness sets in as I imagine my doom of being left behind, forgetting my math skills, or graduating later than all my peers. Still, I know these worries are frivolous and the sign of distrust and maybe even a lack of faith.
Everyone has a future that is unique to them that only they can fulfill. Maybe this change, this road marked only for me is the start of something new. A different path equals a different future. What could it hold. Anticipation swells up inside me as I think of the possibilities. Write a book, save a life, change the world? I'd settle for changing one person's world. Maybe that's what I'll do, change the world one person at a time.
Molly Gallagher, a member of The Olympian's Board of Contributors, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.