"This may be the last time we're all together but no matter what the future holds, no matter how far we travel, a part of us, a very important part, will always remain here on Deep Space Nine." - Capt. Benjamin Sisko, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, final episode
I wish someone had said something like that to me during May and June. I wish that someone had reassured me as a nervous seventh-grader, moving up to the junior-senior high school, that it was okay to become attached to a place, a group of people. Now, I'm moving on to a whole new group of people, a huge group. I read in the paper that the freshman class at UMASS-Amherst is something like 2600. My entire high school had 600 for six grades. I'm not used to being surrounded by people; my house is in the boondocks of a town in the middle of friggin nowhere. By the time you read this, I'll have arrived and moved into my dorm. I'm absolutely terrified.
Maybe what scares me the most is the fact that everyone I know is moving on in life. They're working summer jobs to pay for college or personal expenses or because they just have to. They're not seeing all of us every day, without much fail. Over this summer, I've only been regularly emailing one friend, and a few others here and there. I'm out of touch, again.
Born and raised as a Trekkie, I see a lot of humanity reflected in the shows. I see storylines ahead of their time, and some things that are behind our time. (The twenty-fourth century and there's no gay people- what the hell?) I remember when The Next Generation went off the air. Of course, I also remember the very first episode, where humanity's value in general was called into question, as it was again in the last. I remember that last episode of Deep Space Nine, and the way the episode now strikes a deep chord in me. People moving on, some people staying behind. New challenges, as much as surviving under new conditions as remaining true to yourself and staying in touch with old friends in the process. In the last episode, the crew, which had grown and changed and everything in between during seven years together, moved on, to new assignments, new lives, apart from the familiarity they were accustomed to, the friends they valued, the life they enjoyed living together.
A lot like high school, I think. Most of my classmates grew up together, from preschool onward. But once we hit seventh grade, things seemed to change so quickly. Hormones started to rage, classes changed every forty-seven minutes, we dealt with over a dozen teachers each day, friendships evolved and changed and died and were born. There are jokes and sayings and experiences that I share only with those people I spent high school with. Only my class was thrown out of a national monument for throwing half-eaten candy down an obelisk that marked a major Revolutionary War battle. Only my class, during the last weeks of school, saw the cliques dissolve and everyone finally get along. We shared a senior week and trip and baccalaureate and graduation. We shared parties and memories and songs and laughter. Now, a rather dorky pop song can make me dissolve into tears because my entire class danced to it on our trip. Only my class would link arms in a huge circle on a crowded dance floor on a boat in Boston Harbor-twice-and sway back and forth to Vitamin C's "Graduation Song (Friends Forever)." Only my class would SING the graduation song from the original "Saved By The Bell" show at baccalaureate. And I write this still believing that I hated much of high school.
Then there are the multitude of regrets left behind. While I was still in high school, I still had a shot at changing situations that I didn't like, making amends with friends or enemies, or even a shot at getting to know people I never had a chance to sit down with and really talk to. For example, only this June was I "officially" forgiven for punching a classmate (who has now become a good friend) in the jaw during our freshman year Spanish 1 class. There are so many mistakes I made during high school, so many things I did and shouldn't have, or things I never did in the first place, or did poorly, that I can no longer make up for. I can't go back and redo a badly written report, or retake a test, or work harder at a class I should have done better in. I can't make up for years of brooding behavior and moodiness anymore. It's all said and done with, "we can't return we can only look behind from where we came" as Joni Mitchell sang.
But we're all moving on and it's scary. I barely knew a lot of my classmates, and I'll forget them now, only noticing their pictures in the yearbook when I flip through it. My friends... I don't want to forget them, but I know I will with some. It's just so hard to stay in touch, even when you want to. And in a lot of cases, I'm just honestly too laissez faire about friendships. There will be people I say I'm friends with now, that somehow I know I won't see them until a reunion, unless I randomly bump into them at CVS or something. And then there are a precious few that I'll call and email and write to for at least a few years, if not longer. And of course, I'll lose touch with some only to rediscover them years later and find that though we both have changed, the friendship can be picked up almost where it left off. I've had that happen before, and it's a wonderful feeling.
Meanwhile, though, I'm scared, like I think most people are before they go off to college. I don't know if I'll make friends easily, or if I'll have a neonazi or fundamentalist or just regular old bigot on my corridor to harass me. A part of me wants to hold onto the past like I'm drowning and it's my lifevest. And another part of me, that's been rearing to go since I was thirteen years old, is just dying to get up to college and move on with my life. I guess I'll find out what will happen as I go along. Wish me luck.
Bethany Kimball is an 18 year old freshman at UMASS-Amherst in Western Massachusetts. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org