Five years ago, my parents and I took my brother to college. We dropped him off at his dorm room at Portland State University. He sure looked old his senior year at West Linn High School yet so young when we left him at Portland State.

His senior year in high school was spent preparing for his new life on his own. Or, in the words of my brother, 'experiencing a massive case of senioritis.'

My parents provided him more freedom, allowing him to make decisions in high school that he would face in college.

However, we all knew if he ended up making the wrong decision, he still had a safety net with his family. My brother had no idea what to expect during his freshman year at PSU. I learned from watching him these last four years that living on your own and attending a new school can throw a few surprises your way.

When I asked my brother for a few bits of wisdom, he said, 'Watch out for how weird it is coming home - especially when your bedroom is changed.' Then he laughed and said, 'The best part is being on your own and no one knows what you are doing or where you are going.' That freaked me out, as I remember he would go to Voodoo Doughnuts in downtown Portland at 1 a.m.

This year, I face the same transition. It is my senior year at West Linn High School. I have been accepted at Washington State University and I realize that I will be leaving home in nine months. That means there are nine months to finish preparing myself for what will face me in college, including a stressful work load, homesickness, handling different or difficult social situations and of course, all the fun of being on your own.

I am not the only one getting ready for me to go to college. My parents have begun making their plans. When I was little, my brother and I were never left in the care of a babysitter, and my parents always took us on all vacations. As a family, we had a lot of fun together. Now that my parents will have a house free of children, they decided to work on their bucket list. They began, stereotypically, with the purchase of my Dad's mid-life crisis car - a red Mustang convertible. My parents are already shouting 'road trip!'

By watching my family, I've seen how important these transitions are. Through transitions, we learn to adapt to change, act responsibly, choose a personal life path and quite possibly find happiness.

The change ahead can appear to be scary only because it is unfamiliar. I choose to believe that the difficult aspects are worth the good outcome. And, my parents have promised to have a bed waiting for me whenever I want to come home for a visit. Life is good.

Caitlin Tompkins is a senior at West Linn High School.

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