December 18, 2007
At the exact moment I write this, I have no idea where I am. I can only judge my position—-New Mexico, or Kansas maybe-—by the elapsed time since the plane left Arizona. The sun has just set, and now patches of light emerge like constellations on a rough terrain, as offensively conspicuous as blemishes on prepubescent skin. Meanwhile, the cabin lights illuminate a man in Row 17, reading a sci-fi paperback purchased from the airport bookstore. These lights also reveal a woman in 20's aisle seat, as she bites her lip and presses her temple, deliberating over a Sudoku puzzle as one might over Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Sniffling comes from the row behind me, echoes in a few seats elsewhere, and I can only assume that something tragic has just happened to the wide-eyed protagonist on the in-flight movie. (Many contend that popular public places like malls, restaurants, and parks are best for people-watching, but I've found no better site than an airplane.)

Meanwhile I--an adaptable creature, whose most natural habitat seems to be in planes, trains, and automobiles--sit comfortably on Flight 683, Phoenix to Newark. I'm found sandwiched between my two best friends, at the start of a vacation planned as our "last hurrah"—the getaway trip before the flurry of graduation, before summers spent jet-setting across Europe (them) or interning at a local paper (me), before we pack our boxes and change our zip codes, and before weekly phone calls replace daily house calls. And though I'm well aware that this moment--spent approximately 34,000 feet above ground--may be the beginning of our end, I don't care. I'm in the moment, this moment, and it is my moment. Don't get me wrong; I'm not trying to be horribly dramatic. No, this isn't my moment in the hackneyed, pre-graduation, pre-marriage, pre-child, pre-promotion kind of way, where the music swells and the credits prepare to roll. Not even in the pseudo-inspirational way, as illustrated on posters found in any school counselor's office ("Live in the present, but look towards the future!"). Rather, this is a moment that can define my thus-far teenage years: anticipating greatness, suspended in air.

I've spent the past hour of this five-hour flight with the most profoundly interesting people I've ever met. We've flipped through and laughed at celebrity gossip magazines (with screeching headlines like "Britney Hits Rock Bottom!" and "Brad’s LIES!"), debated the necessity of stiletto boots in the scheme of my Cher circa-1972 Halloween costume (them arguing pro, and me--or rather, my feet--arguing con), and planned out our forthcoming New York City adventures.

To most, this flight situation doesn't exactly spell out "fun." In fact, many complain about flying, and consider airports nothing but hassles. Some even despise mile-high travel, and stiffen at the mere thought of turbulence. But this moment isn't about the flight. This moment is about me being a teenager (nothing advanced or complicated, not outstanding or excellent, no scholar or finalist) at the beginning of a trip with my two best friends. For this brief vacation from normalcy, I can forget about SAT scores and calculus homework, pep assemblies and due dates, English essays and club meetings. I can be young, I can be optimistic, I can be fortunate; I can be walking in the city with a latte in my hand, a song in my head, and hope in my heart. This moment is the beginning of that journey. And the beginning is when anything can happen. The beginning, I've found, is always the best part.

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