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Toronto, Canada

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The Unconventional Grade 12 Summer Bucket List

Written by Vincent Atallah

Photo by Stefan Spassov

Take it from someone who should have done these things before leaving home for 4 years of school.

These are the things I wish I would have done before leaving my home town for 4 years of school in a new city. Looking back, I didn’t realize that it would be the last extended period of time that I would have to really appreciate my childhood memories.

The reality of leaving home

You’re in grade 12. You’ve accepted (or are about to accept) your offer to a school that’s not in your home town. You’re excited to finally get the heck out of the town where you’ve spent your entire life, and to meet people who haven’t been in your face for the past 12 years. You’re feeling hella old and have completely outgrown your surroundings. You’ve got a few friends you know you’ll miss, but for the most part you’re excited to peace out.

This was me in April of my grade 12 year. What I didn’t realize at that moment was how harsh the cut off would be from my home-town world. After you leave home for school, you’ll spend 2-4 years in a new city surrounded my unfamiliar spaces and faces. This is definitely a blessing, and gives you a chance to learn and grow throughout your pursuit of “adulting”.

What you may not realize is that aside from holidays and maybe a summer break, you’ll probably never spend another extended period of time in your home town again. After first year, it’s because you have a lease. After the lease it’s because of your new summer job. After your new job it’s because you’ve graduated. And after graduation it’s because you’re a full-blown adult with a job and a life outside of what was once your everything. This doesn’t really sink in until half-way through your post-secondary schooling, and it hits you hard when you start remembering the good memories from your home town. ​

Don’t get me wrong. With good memories comes just as many bad ones, but it’s the good ones that matter most.

Knowing what I know now, these are the things I would have done before leaving home.

1. Thank the people who are important to you

There were about 10 people in my “home-town world” that made formative impacts on my decisions in life and the lessons I’ve learned. They’ve moulded pieces of who I am to this day, and are the reason I have happy memories of my home town.

Had I known I would never get the chance to be a 10 minute drive away from them again, I would have sat them down or wrote a letter to gush about their impact on my life. They might find it cheesy, but leaving home with the confidence that you left those relationships on the best note possible will give you a next level of comfort that you’ll only appreciate on the days you’re feeling blue. ​

By the way, you can win a scholarship just for thinking about your parents. Seriously. Check out 99 Scholarships to find out more.

2. Do your favourite things for your last month in town

I spent so many of my final days preparing for my move; obsessing over my new life; and scrubbing my mind of thoughts of my home town to make sure I had a clean slate when I left for school. It’s okay to be excited, but you have 4 years of school to do it. Focus on “the now”.

With this mindset, I would have gone for 1 more back-road drive or 1 more trip to Wild Wing with my closest friends and have been conscious of how I felt in that moment. It sounds super corny, but cherishing a moment is only effective when you can recreate that moment in your memory. Try to absorb as many details as you can about the moments and people that matter– recalling them in your memory will be much easier when you need them the most.

3. Visit your aunt Susan

Your parents have seen you every day for the past 18 years. As much as they’re going to miss you, they’re looking forward to seeing you flourish in a new environment. But what about the relatives who didn’t have the luxury of seeing your smiling face so often? These were the relatives I didn’t cherish when I was in your shoes. ​

Visit the aunt and uncle you only see for Thanksgiving. Spend 1-on-1 time with your grandparents who have always been in your corner, rooting for your success. It’s really, really difficult to find the time to do this when you’re in school. Your life gets busy. You establish your own priorities. This is one of my biggest regrets from my time in my home-town. Visit. Your. Family.

4. Take pictures

I was a big photography fanatic in high school, so the fact that I never photographed the people I loved the most is something I really regret. You have a powerful camera built into your phone: use it. Take random candid pictures of you, your friends, your experiences and the fun excursions you go on. Going for ice cream at your favourite local parlour? Snap a pic of you, your friends and your insta-worthy sweet treat. You don’t have to print these pics and hang them with fairy lights in your new dorm (although, it looks nice AF), but just having them on your phone makes for really special “awww” moments when scrolling through your albums.

Plus, your friends will be thrilled that you’ve taken actual candid photos they can put on the ‘gram.

5. Put the drama to bed

You’ve spent over a decade with virtually the same people. I know with certainty that you have some less-than-fantastic relationships with some people that you’ve never quite gotten along with. Maybe Becky from science class said some nasty things behind your back in grade 11, or maybe Jason has always given you the side eye. As you become an actual adult, you are 100% going to run into these people at some point in the future. Let me tell you: it is so awkward to see them and not know whether to smile, frown or eye-roll them to shreds. Make this decision easier on yourself and put your best foot forward.

How? Go up to them at some point before you leave and say these simple words “Hey! I genuinely just want to wish you all the best as we graduate.”. You’re not saying sorry. You’re not being passive-aggressive. You’re genuinely sending them a well-wishing and can just leave it at that. Even if they don’t reciprocate: you did the right thing. ​

Trust me. This simple sentence will give you much-needed closure for years to come.

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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.