Eighth-grade graduation. Soaring ahead. Sporting a white dress and very new mascara, I stood in the cafeteria that would seat me nearly every day for the next four years feeling out of place and slightly nervous. Struggling to find my place in line with my fellow “K’s,” a stranger’s advice drifted my way: “These four years will fly by, enjoy them while they last.” Now, standing before my final year of high school, these words rush back to me with a new clarity and significance. Where did the time go?
I moved to Wilton just before kindergarten with my family of five, two slobbery dogs and two elusive cats. I made my first friends playing Wiffle ball in the front yard and by having a pantry always stocked with Rice Krispie treats. Since then I have been through the four schools, tried 10 different local sports and activities (two of which stuck) and taught by over 50 teachers.
Through these years I have found my people, my passion and my routine. I survived the awkwardness of puberty and transitioning between schools — challenges that once seemed insurmountable — and passed through other daunting milestones with an ease I never imagined possible. This year holds the greatest decisions and changes yet, and right now the endpoint seems hazy and overwhelming. So before I begin this next chapter, I think about what really made me a Warrior through these other huge changes.
Turns out it was not the location or time: it was the people.
The same girls who would join me in playing American Idol and Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum on Bus 17 in second grade carpooled to Driver’s Ed with me last year. My mom still refers to my classmates by their third grade Living Museum identity, and I know exactly who she means. Last year, I watched the girls I played “restaurant” with take on their first jobs and I am still best friends with the girl who knocked on my door my first week in town. There is a simple beauty in the interconnectedness of our mutual and different experiences over the years: a beauty that has pushed our community into a deeper and stronger bond. Whether successfully winning the tug of war at field day for your house (go Belden!), marching in the Halloween parades, acting out To Kill a Mockingbird or memorizing lines for the Greek Festival, these memories and celebrations with new and old faces have prepared and unified our class for this year of ultimate milestones and festivities. For coming full circle.
With this in mind, I enter my senior year unafraid and ready to take on the next challenge. I am ready to complete the journey I started with my peers not alone in stress, but together in a celebration of our journeys. There’s a reason the annual spirit week Toga Day is reserved for seniors: to laugh and enjoy the finite time left in these halls is essential to completing this experience. This year we do not only face our upcoming future, but we walk together through a road lined with senior nights, football games, senior skip day, lunches in the jungle, parking spots, pep rallies, whiteouts and so much more. Like a tree-lined street it would be untrue to say the path of this year is all light or all dark: it is a perfect mix. To emphasize the light, remember to embrace the supporting arms around you. Cherish the subtle beauty of these days. I have no idea what my future will hold, but I am not afraid. When you think about all the people around you in these halls, the journey is effortless. For what is a warrior without her tribe?
Lily Kepner is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with five classmates.