As I stepped across the stage I reached out to shake the principal’s hand and I swear at that moment I heard a cartoonish screeching of tires and slamming of breaks in my head. I froze in place, grasping her hand in mine, and looked out across the field at the faces of all the kids I had spent the last 18 years of my life with. It suddenly became too frighteningly clear, even though we were now all going off to different colleges, nothing would ever change. We would get degrees, we would get jobs, and we would all end up sitting in identical cubicles in bleak windowless offices. From somewhere out in the crowd I heard a murmur, “what is she doing?” and I snapped out of my trance. Hastily I accepted my diploma from the principal, who looked relieved that I finally let go of her hand, and made my way back to my seat amongst my classmates.
The summer flew by. I was supposed to spend it backpacking around Europe with my best friend but I sold my ticket to her boyfriend instead, I would need all the cash I could get. I used the money to travel to Camino, a little town on the American River, where I spent the summer working at a sleep-away camp (my parents had no idea I wasn’t in Europe). It was there I met a group of river guides; I was fascinated by their tales of life on the water.
Before I knew it summer was over and I found myself sitting on my bed in my brand new college dorm room. My parents had just left in a flurry of tears and goodbyes and my roommate had yet to arrive. Now was my chance. I had a bag full of clothes and a few other essentials, the rest was just stuff, and I left it behind along with a note explaining what I was about to do.
I boarded a Greyhound to Stanley, Idaho, where I would spend the last couple months of the season as a cook on the rafting trips along the Salmon River. If all went well then next season I could start my apprenticeship and actually learn how to row the rafts. I rested my head against the bus window and as the road flew by I couldn’t help but smile as I dozed off. My blissful slumber was interrupted by an annoying beeping sound, like the bus was backing up. Had we arrived already? Sleepily I open my eyes and blinked several times, trying to figure out where I was, and then I realized, I was in my bedroom, in my house, and that noise was my alarm telling me it was six a.m., time to get up and go to work. “Crap it was only a dream”, I sighed as I creakily maneuver my aging body out of bed, “my therapist is going to have a field day with this one.”