11/15/2012 09:15 am ET Updated Jan 15, 2013

Letting Go of the Class of 2012

Today, the pictures in the glass case changed. Today, I learned to let go.

Enter the lobby of our high school: Past the glass windows spanning ceiling to floor, past the mascot statue of the pioneer, past the pasted honor roll list on the wall, and there is a glass case of the National Merit Semifinalists' pictures, the seniors every year who earn the highest grades in the country on the PSAT.

For the past two months, I have walked past the glass case every day, pausing to look longingly at the pictures, at the seniors who came before us and now are gone. I would rue their departure and the fact that they had moved on to the next stage in their lives while I was still stuck in this one. Although none of my best friends had been seniors, I felt resentful in some way, as if I deserved to be with them, to explore the big wide world out there.

I imagined our former classmates exploring new horizons, with different comrades and different goals and different perspectives. Even if many stayed in the area, at a college in Philadelphia or in the Philadelphia region, they were now college kids, remote beyond imagination. They probably walked around eternally green college campuses discussing Camus and Hobbes and quantum electrophysics, falling in love with new places and new people. I imagined them living the kind of college life movies are made of.

So I dwelled on this discontent and resentment. I disdained my surroundings, my classes, and the boys in my classes, because nothing could probably match up to the college life that the graduated seniors were now experiencing. And I spent my time remembering the summer, when the leaves seemed eternally green, and the moments we shared -- he and I. They grew magnified in my vivid writer's imagination, each detail taking on metaphorical resonances and symbolism. I no longer knew what was real, I was so caught up in remembering what I wished to remember.

But today, the pictures in the glass case changed. I finally gathered the courage to reach out, and his response was simply advice for me to walk away without looking back and to stop thinking about us, as he had done. He was patronizing. He always had been; I had simply forgotten.

Today, the pictures in the glass case changed to mine and my classmates', the Class of 2013, the senior National Merit Semifinalists of this year. Today, the seniors in marching band marched across our field for our last performance. Today, I realized that he and the class above us might have moved on to their new lives, to our tomorrows, but we still have our todays. And it's too short to hold on to memories, especially ones distorted by time.

There were pioneers who settled out West first, and pioneers who settle out West later. I have to let go. I deserve to be here, a senior in high school, and it's my last chance to make a difference here and now. I can hold on to the past or I can let go, soft memories intact. I choose the latter -- because I'm the picture in the glass case now. This is my moment. This is our moment, Class of 2013. We've stepped fully into the shoes of those who left.