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Goeun Park: After graduation, what’s next step?

“What year is it?” I half screamed to my parents, my pen poised above the May 11, 2013.

While this question might have been acceptable five months ago, it’s nothing less than slightly pathetic right now. After all the “CLASS OF 2013!” memorabilia I’ve been bombarded with in the last week, one would think that I’d remember my own graduation year.

I’ve noticed that as I get older, my sense of time becomes more and more skewed. When I was younger, time was of the utmost importance. I marked every mundane anniversary, every obscure holiday. I remember bragging how I was not just 8, I was 8½, thank you very much.

These days, I’m never quite sure what day it is. My weeks are punctuated by deadlines, my hours marked by school bells. Oh, such is the glorious life of a high schooler. Except, I won’t be one for long. 

On the high school website, the countdown to graduation ticks in sync to my hyperventilating lungs. Of course, I shouldn’t be shocked; it wasn’t like someone suddenly came up to me and said, “Oh hey, this is short notice but you’re gonna leave Detroit Lakes High School forever in two weeks so you better be ready!”

Trust me, I didn’t forget. I’ve year 2013 has been burned into my conscience since I was in first grade. I’ve known about graduation in the back of my mind for years — I just haven’t considered it as a real, tangible thing. As a thing that will actually happen in the very near future, not a fourth of my lifetime later.

What scares me the most is that I don’t know what’s going to happen. Well, I know what’s supposed to happen: I’ll graduate high school and go to college and turn 19 and then 20 and then 21 and then maybe even 22 if I don’t contract lethal meningitis or cholera. But what’s after that? What’s after 22? Graduate school? Unemployment? Zombie apocalypse?

What’s the rest of my life? The uncertainty kind of terrifies me.

When I was 8½, my scope of the future was painfully short.

I’m not nostalgic about the past; not nearly enough time has passed to dilute the trauma of being 15. (For those of you who are 15 or will one day be 15: I am so sorry. If it’s any consolation at all, it’s wretched for almost everyone.) But I long for those years when time passed slowly, when time was a box to fill with easy laughter and library books, not a race to the finish line.

At least, that’s what I think now. Ten years from today, I’m sure I’ll be wallowing in this exact same sentiment, only “eight-and-a-half” will be “18-going-on-19.” That’s how time works, isn’t it? It seems to go so fast or so slow until it’s gone.

In case anyone else needs a reminder: it’s 2013. It’s 2013, but it won’t be for long, I promise. The clock’s ticking and it’s about time I stopped wasting your precious time with this column. (In other words, see you next week, folks!)

Goeun Park is a senior at Detroit Lakes High School.