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Saturday, September 16, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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She won't grow up, at least not quite this year

Special to The Seattle Times

I sat on my lawn watching school buses drive by. Teenagers followed in their tricked-out rides blasting some sort of sound they refer to as music.

Something inside of me almost ached to go back to high school today.

Not that I liked that place, but no one ever warned me that everything I would encounter after graduation would be so similar to what I left.

I wake up and dress to go to work. Only now I have a uniform. Work has the rules of a classroom: no drinking soda, no swearing, no tank tops, no short skirts. When you are late there is no detention, just threats to be fired.

Gossip still plays the same role, only I have fewer co-workers than I had classmates, so one slip-up and everyone knows.

I wonder what I'm doing a lot nowadays.

I'm only 18, a child a heart. I know that someday I want to be an English teacher and save the girl that was me year after year. But what am I supposed to do now? I watch my friends disappear off to college so sure of themselves and full of promise. Maybe I should have applied for early admission last year. I believe I would have been wasting a year of tuition getting accustomed to the skin that the legal adult must fill. But who is to say that I'm not just wasting a year of my parents' food?

So I make mix CDs and send them with my friends. They hug me and sing me parts of "Hey Ya" by OutKast, which has somehow become my anthem. And I sit on my lawn and I watch school buses go by.

I know that right now I just need to cling to my mother's skirt and test the waters of the real world. I don't want to get drunk at frat parties, or sleep in and miss my classes, or become some corporate machine. I just want to watch cloud shapes go by and remember that the world is too big and beautiful to shut any doors just yet.

Good luck and have fun. I'll see you all on campus when I'm ready to admit that I am big enough to be on my own. But when I have open arms to give me shelter from the storm I don't feel a need to say that I'm a real grown-up.

Frankly, I doubt I'll ever be that.

Ruby Pipes graduated from W.F. West High School in Chehalis in June. She plans to attend college next fall.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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