Fall. To some, the seasonal turn from a warm yellow sun to whimsical falling leaves is a time where change feels natural and beautiful. Scarecrows line the town streets with bewildering grins, parents rapidly flock to Local Soul and Open House to grab their favorite candle scents and Coffee Barn customers trade in their cold brew orders for pumpkin spice lattes. Most importantly, Halloween’s approach sends kids of all ages into heavy contemplation of costume choice, exhausting parents with the flamboyant requests and changing ideas. But for us high school seniors, “what do you want to be” has a much scarier connotation.

If you asked me 10 years ago what I wanted to be, I probably would have said Taylor Swift. Today, though that may still be true, the question has a much heavier weight and implication that goes past the 31st.

As high school seniors, just like autumn, we too shed our leaves with every “last” event and face the upcoming winter takeover. Whether through career planning, college applications or other pursuits, we spend much of our falls clearing our branches to make way for a new beginning. Our leaves are falling with every last homecoming, spirit week and milestone, leaving gaps on the branches for us to define a new future.

And this is both terrifying and exhilarating.

Like our dear fall friend, we are indecisive. Just as one day of heavy rain and chilled winds could give way to a tomorrow of cloudless skies and sun-filled days, we change our minds. A lot. One day I’ll wake up bright and hopeful for the future with a new dream on my back and plan to pursue it, and the next I’ll open my computer and collapse under the agonizing Common App stress.

This time may be very spooky indeed, but in untraditional ways. Unlike Halloween, this year is not about trying costumes on, but taking everything off. There is a certain vulnerability about senior year because it’s not choosing what to be, but finding and having confidence in who you are.

Senior year we have to strip down to the raw surface of who we are —  independent from this town and the people around us — and listen to that small voice that tells us the answer. Some people may already know it, while others are still searching.

For me it feels a lot like that scene in Horton Hears a Who when Horton must search for the Whoville clover in a field of hundreds of similar ones — holding up each college to my ears, squinting in concentration in search for that telltale “we are HERE! we are HERE!” and trusting that whenever the message becomes clear, as long as I keep working and thinking, I’ll be ready to listen. Trusting that I’ll find my place.

So loving parents, teachers, friends and family, please bear with us during this time. For all the times you zipped us up into our costumes and filled our baskets with candy and coins, kindly consider leaving us in the quiet for this one.

The chaotic spirit weeks we spent dressing up in boas and paint and the football whiteouts remind us of the amazing community we are a part of and make the process so much more bearable. While we know one day we’ll look back on this experience as truly beautiful change, right now we feel it personally and sharply. We appreciate that you can see that beauty for us, and look forward to joining you in that view at the turn of this season.

But in the meantime,“what are you being for Halloween” may be the safer question :).


Lily Kepner is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with five classmates.