My roommate keeps a life-size cardboard cutout of Ronald Reagan in our living room and every morning I wake up with the knowledge that, no matter what I do, I am still going to forget about him. Then, some unknown time later, I will be violently reminded of his presence and have a minor severe heart attack when I see his disapproving, wrinkly face and think that it’s the ghost of Christmas past.
And this is really just a perfect metaphor for the future. No matter what you do or where you go, the future is still going to be waiting to frighten you when you get up to pee in the morning.
That brings us to the first day of school. Like cardboard Reagan’s cold, dead eyes, it makes no sense for me to be scared of it. I’m a senior. This is my 16th round of first school days, I should be able to keep it together by now. But I can’t help but being scared. I still have that innate, childhood anxiety over getting lost or being picked on (of course I got picked on a lot. I looked like a troll doll come to life and wrote Harry Potter fanfiction in my notebook. I am no stranger to the cruelty of adolescents). Most people grow out of it by now. But, as much as I’m annoyed by it, there is also an undertone of respect.
Because it means that through everything, I’m still that little hideous troll doll who was nervous for her first day of school. Just a hell of a lot hotter. I was (and still am) a sentimental kid and I’m glad that hasn’t changed. I’m also glad I stopped trying to make corduroy overalls a thing.
The main difference between me then and now is that I’m a little more accepting. Not that 11 year old me was racist or anything. I just mean accepting in the sense of inevitability. Back then, I still had the belief that because I didn’t want the future to happen, I could somehow do something to delay that. That’s also, incidentally, how I almost electrocuted myself trying to make a time machine out of a toaster, a tricycle, and a tub of Crisco.
Now, I’m not worried about the future. I’m more just content with knowing there’s going to be one. Sometimes I will get lost or made fun of by the other kids, but life goes on. There’s always something undiscovered, something waiting to explore. The future, and cardboard Reagan, will always be there to wake you up in the morning.
So let’s rock and roll and get this show started.
Ashley is a senior Creative Writing major from Payette, Idaho.