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It's senior year at long last

My senior year is finally here. To be honest, I often feel like I should have graduated a while ago.

I’ve pretended to be a college student on at least one plane ride already, and said, “Oh, next summer will be my first summer back from college” aloud, by accident. In fact, it’ll be the summer before I leave for another freshman year in another city.

Despite this inability to understand time and a propensity to lie to strangers, I’m excited and a little scared for the big year ahead.

Senior year will be busy for me. I have at least eight colleges to apply to and a few scholarships to try for. My tendency towards electives for the past three years has made my final schedules very full of core classes.

I’ll be teaching another year of the student-led, hands-on XV science class with my classmate Lucas Rosevear, who led the class with me last year. This means I have eight months of planning and fundraising ahead. (Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in donating or in mentoring! This year, we’ll be building small autonomous cars in teams, and you can check out past years at xvoceans.com and xvobservatory.com!)

I have at least three full days’ worth of panicking about all of the above things to do. Still, when I think of the full year I have ahead, I find myself daydreaming about the day I finally walk into Lewis & Clark’s Agnes Flanagan Chapel and get my diploma.

I’ve observed three of Riverdale’s graduations. Each ceremony had me feeling left behind as I watched some of my closest friends accept their diplomas and waltz off stage to their new lives. Every time, I’ve held back tears and prayed for the day of my own graduation to come sooner. It’s now just nine months away, and I feel a little less prepared to leave than my constant sighs and eye rolls would have my poor mother believe.

Somehow, after 10 years, I’ve come to love Portland. And after 17, I’ve come to love my family, too. It’s strange that the abstract ideas of “leaving Portland” and “going to college” will actually happen.

I’ve thought about this day since sixth grade, but I’ve never imagined myself opening the envelopes that will tell me “yes” or “no,” or thought too much about packing up all my clothes and getting new sheets for school.

And now that those dates are getting a little too close for comfort, I want to go back in time and take back every instance that I’ve mumbled, “Oh my God, I can’t wait to leave,” because I can wait.

I’m so lucky to have the chance to go to college, and I know I’ll love whatever college I end up at. But sometimes I feel like telling the universe to wait, because I’m not ready, and I’m not old enough to be away from my mom for a year — if I leave town at all for school.

So much has changed since that first day of high school four years ago. I recently found a “high school bucket list” I made freshman year. The fourth item on the list, before “get into college” and after three items specifying the boys I hoped to kiss by the end of high school (priorities, everyone) was “be part of something big.” And I started to wonder: Could I cross that one off? (No comment on the status of the kiss list).

Over the course of my high school career, I’ve gone to school in Finland, been in a musical and led our Science Olympiad team to fourth place. I’ve been part of Riverdale’s first student-taught class. I’ve tested water and organisms in the Pacific Ocean for radioactivity.

I’ve taught my own class in Riverdale’s second student-led class. I’ve learned to code, weld, solder, and 3-D print. I’ve become a feminist, started Riverdale’s feminism club, and I’ve been an admin for a feminist Facebook page. (You all should check out Guerrilla Feminism Portland!) I’ve been named a regional winner and national runner-up in the National Center for Women in Information Technology’s Aspirations in Computing contest. I’ve won a hackathon. I’ve worked at the VA, at OHSU, at PSU. And I’ve written for The Lake Oswego Review as a student columnist.

Most importantly, I’ve done none of these things alone.

As I begin my final year of high school, I’d like to thank every single person who’s helped me achieve my most important bucket list item: kiss an older boy.

Also, thank you to all the dozens of people who have by now allowed me to confidently check off that fourth item. Thanks for helping me be a part of something big.

Patricia Torvalds is a senior at Riverdale High School, and she writes a monthly column for the Review. She can be reached at education@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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