When I was younger, I never thought that I would make it to high school. The idea of me being a high school student seemed completely absurd, and yet, as my eighth grade graduation went from being years away to months away to days away, I realized that I couldn’t hide from the truth: Whether I liked it or not, I couldn’t remain a child forever. As soon as I reluctantly entered the realm of high school and became overwhelmed by swarms of essays and exams, that desire to hold onto my childhood slowly faded away, and I no longer had time to grieve over the impermanence of youth.

Now I’m a senior, less than two months away from my 18th birthday, and that desire to hold onto my childhood is returning. This year of school marks the beginning of the end, and that terrifies me. Wilton has been one of the foremost components of my life for the past 17 years, and I am afraid of leaving it behind and having to venture into the unknown, parting ways with Wilton and all the phenomenal people in it with whom I’ve formed life-changing connections. My senior year embodies this idea, and I hate it for that. I’ve been anxiously awaiting this moment for the past three years, and now that it’s finally here, I want to go back.

Not even a month has passed since the start of my senior year, and I already can’t stop thinking about all the “lasts” I will experience over the next 10 months. In fact, some of these “lasts” have already occurred. Since I was in kindergarten, for example, my family has had our annual tradition of going to Staples in mid-August for back-to-school shopping. I never thought much about it, as it simply seemed like an ordinary thing to do. And yet, when I learned that we were going to be ordering our school supplies online this year, I couldn’t help but feel sad.

While I’m sure that I will eventually be back in Staples someday, I will never relive the exhilaration of frantically running through the aisles looking for folders (each one had to be a unique color, of course), awkwardly smiling at old classmates I hadn’t properly seen in years, and rambling on to my mother about what my new classes might be like. The summer of 2019 was my last time doing this, and the realization that I hadn’t known it at the time saddens me. Something as simple as back-to-school shopping has already become a distant memory.

I won’t deny that finally being a senior is exciting, but I’m constantly surrounded by these reminders that this is where my childhood ends. My senior year marks the conclusion of my life story’s first chapter, and I can’t help but sometimes wonder if I’m truly ready to move onto Chapter Two. Either way, Wilton, unfortunately, is not Peter Pan’s Neverland, and I need to accept that adulthood is inevitable. Maybe I’m ready, maybe I’m not, but in the end, all I can really do is close my eyes as I journey into unfamiliar territory and hope for a happy ending.

Justin Rosenthal is a senior at Wilton High School. He shares this column with three classmates.