A Reflection on Growing Up: A Journey from K-12 Here in Nanuet


Donoghue shows off her birthday gear from her class celebration when she was an elementary school student.

For those of us who are now seniors here at Nanuet High School, our first day of Kindergarten was in 2009. It has been thirteen years since our parents first sent us off on big yellow school buses, since we napped on the floor in our classrooms, since we viewed school with curious, glistening eyes. Can you remember how large it felt? How wonderful it was to have so many years ahead of you? I can picture it now, my Twinkle Toes sneakers lighting up on the floor, and my best friend’s face as she swung across the monkey bars. 

Of course this sense of childlike wonder faded somewhere along the way. At some point during my Nanuet career, I packed a toy in my backpack for the last time, read my final Magic Treehouse book, or attended my last ever Halloween dance. I likely didn’t even know it. Sometimes it feels sad now, as I drive myself past Miller, or Highview, or even Barr, and view the buildings with my seventeen-year-old eyes. Somehow, they seem so familiar and simultaneously distant, having already spent all the time I will ever spend between their walls. The wonder is gone; it’s been replaced with memories. 

We can all remember the sheer excitement of getting our first lockers, decorating them, filling them with our winter coats and lunch boxes. Many of us can still see the image in our minds of the long and winding line for the ice cream machine in the Barr cafeteria. Or the butterflies in our stomachs as we walked into school on the first day of ninth grade. It is an odd thing to remember these moments distantly, when they were once so novel. Think of how big and scary the seniors seemed when we were freshmen, how we kept our heads down in the hallways and as we walked through the parking lot. Now, as I look around, the seniors are simply the kids I’ve always known. Except we are all grown up. 

This isn’t to say that we no longer get excited. Many of us are getting our licenses and cars, applying for colleges, slowly becoming independent and responsible adults. In fact, senior year may be the most exciting yet, between prom, senior superlatives, senior photos, the yearbook, and graduation. However, it is odd to feel time moving, to notice how numbered our days here at Nanuet have become. After so many years spent in this town, feeling like we would never grow up, seniors are finally forced to stop taking our fleeting time for granted. 

Being a senior is like a constant reminder that the present is both the oldest you have ever been and the youngest you will ever be. Sometimes I wake up and remember that I am not twelve anymore. My mom doesn’t drive me to school anymore, I don’t have to change into P.E. clothes in the locker room anymore, I don’t have the same group of friends anymore. I feel thankful for the time that has passed. Other days, I wake up and am overwhelmed with thoughts of the future. The constant “what if”s. That’s really what it’s like to be a senior: trying to appreciate your last few months here, while you secretly mourn your childhood that feels like it’s over, and wonder about where you will be next year. The past seems so frighteningly far away and the future so scarily close. 

So, what does it feel like to grow up? Growing up is excitement and fear all in one. It’s all of your conversations with teachers or relatives or even strangers being centered around your post-secondary plans. It’s balancing school with things like work, sports, community service, errands. It’s realizing the kids you used to see every day have graduated and left town, and you’ll likely never see them again. It’s seeing those kids in the local grocery store when they’re home for the weekend, and not knowing what to say. You aren’t really strangers, but you’ll never really know each other again. Growing up is completely uncharted independence. And it’s funny because you know that your future self will remember all these feelings you’re currently experiencing and laugh at the memory. They’ll remember all of your anxiety and questions. But, by then, time will have delivered them all the answers.