Keenan Fortenberry

Class of 2012 senior goodbye


Senior year of high school is filled with farewells. The end of the fall semester comes and goes, quickly followed by the start of the spring semester. Athletes give their all on the fields they’ve grown to love, actors give their final performance on their favorite stage, and all of the small goodbyes add up.

I said my final farewells to football and my brothers, even as I struggled to accept the mountain-sized pile of things. The goodbyes I said as I left campus four years ago will pale in comparison to the ones I will say on the day I leave home. I’ll pack up my childhood room and solemnly walk my suitcases down the stairs that I used to sprint down in excitement when my father got home from work. On each birthday, I’ll eat my last home-cooked meal, say goodbye to my mother, and cross the lines that mark my height. I’ll walk out the door, nervous for another first day of school, but this time I won’t return later in the day to tell my mother how it went. My family will leave me alone in a place that isn’t yet my home after we move in. Then, gradually, I’ll find the people who will make saying goodbye at college graduation as difficult as it was in high school.

I had already processed everything by the time I walked off the football team for the last time. It didn’t make the prospect of leaving teammates and coaches behind any easier, but it was a start. I was calm as I drove away from high school for the last time, knowing that I was ready to embark on a new adventure. My friend refers to the human reaction to the end of an experience as “windowing,” and he witnesses it every year at the sleepaway camp where he works as a counselor. The term is derived from the “window of vulnerability” that occurs when people go through major life changes. These emotions are understandably stronger in a group of seven-year-olds leaving camp. He described the various ways in which each child behaves. There’s the kid who cries all the time, the one who starts complaining about everything and says they can’t wait to get home, the one who stays in their bunk and refuses to participate in any activities, the one who pretends they’re not leaving, and everything in between. Their reactions appear dramatic, but the truth is that I have related to each of these types throughout my life.