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By , Nashotah, WI
It was my first day of kindergarten and as the oldest of three daughters, I was the first to venture off to school. This was a big deal but, I had no worries. I wasn’t concerned about homework, or if my teacher would be nice, or who I would sit with at lunch. Because I had no expectations, nothing could go wrong. It was helpful that there were fewer than twenty students in my entire class, a little more than one hundred students in the whole school. From kindergarten to eighth grade I attended a small private school. This tiny school, which became more like a family, would never scare me, never intimidate me, and, above all, I thought it would never change.

Five years later I was one in a class of twelve. It’s such a small size when you really think about it. But I didn’t mind. This class was my family. We had been together for years and we would always be. Everything we did we did as a class. Group science projects, acting out plays for English class, and even all-school kickball games at recess were a regular occurrence. I was naïve and insouciant because I thought my simple world would always be the same.

In seventh grade, my class shrunk to a close-knit group of eight. Eight friends who had spent eight years of their lives learning in the same classrooms with the same dedicated teachers. We were thinking about graduation and what would happen afterwards. But there were still two more years. Besides, the school year was going to be ambitious and lengthy. There was no time to worry about the future.

Finally, eighth grade arrived. Down to seven students in my graduating class. Time is fleeting when you want it to last, I suppose, because the year was almost over and high school was tapping on my shoulder.

Twenty, twelve, eight, seven…and then five hundred.

Standing in the hall on the first day of high school, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of noise and activity going on all around me. It was unfamiliar, terrifying, exciting. I could have panicked. I could have given up on the challenge that lied ahead of me. I could have felt sorry for myself being in such an atypical situation. Instead, I began with the little things—I stood up straighter, took a breath, and began walking. With every step, I allowed the unfamiliarity to disappear. I nudged the terror away and permitted the excitement to fill me up. Because even though I doubted myself, this change was a good thing. It taught me to handle myself with fortitude and poise and to be bold in times of complete uncertainty.

As I walked from class to class and from year to year, more things changed. But those changes didn’t faze me. I knew how to handle them now. Because of one major change in my life that did faze me, I am, and always will be, a stronger person.

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