Anything to Declare, Sir?

So I haven’t posted anything in over two months. Sorry about that—unfortunately the mountain of work that is senior year has yet to let up, and I’m forced to give you the same excuse I always give whenever I haven’t written anything in a while: I was busy doing other things.

Yesterday my mom and I drove to the airport—but not to fly anywhere (that prospect was just a little excruciating for me). She was accompanying me to my interview with the Department of Homeland Security, a step in my quest to become a member of their Global Entry program. In addition to giving me a Known Traveler Number (which allows access to the godsend that is TSA PreCheck), Global Entry lets me go through an expedited customs line upon entering the U.S. at most airport, cruise port, and border checkpoints.

Though I haven’t really gone out of the country in a few years, I’m thinking about the future: studying abroad in college and seeing as much of the world as I can. It’s one of my first steps to being more independent (further along I’ll have to pick out a frequent flier credit card to start racking up those miles).

Other important stuff happens this month, too—in a few weeks I’ll find out which colleges I got accepted to, and my 18th birthday is in four days. I am both excited and terrified for it all. The uncertainty is driving me nuts, because I like to be certain about most things.


As my last moments of “childhood” go by, I’m starting to think about the future, which is something people my age don’t really do a lot. Maybe it’s because we’re so focused on the day to day, trying to make it through the next test, meeting, rehearsal, or whatever that we fail to find any true meaning in it all. Sure, we’re doing it to get into college and more importantly (hopefully) because we enjoy what we do, but there’s little opportunity for us to think about where we’re headed as people.


I’m starting to see these last few months of high school as one of life’s customs checkpoints. Up until now, I’ve been waiting in line eager to get it all over with. But now that I’m almost the next person to be called up, I have to get it together and prepare to enter a new place. They’ll ask me if I have anything to declare. What should I say? (no, I’m not talking about produce or sketchy jewelry worth more than 10,000 dollars) What will I be bringing with me, and what will I leave behind?

Basically, how will adult me be different than kid me—what have I learned during the first 18 years of my life? Of course, biologically that change won’t just happen once I turn 18—in fact, I doubt I’ll feel any different waking up this Thursday morning, so please don’t ask me how it ‘feels’ to be 18—but this major milestone is a good place to figure out what I want to declare to life’s customs agent. After all, legally there’s quite a lot that changes: I can vote (to my utmost dismay, a mere two days after the Florida primary), I can drive past 1 a.m. (though I can’t imagine a situation in which I’d take advantage of that privilege), I’m responsible for my own healthcare, and unfortunately I’ll have to start filing my own taxes.

Of course I’m bound to think of countless things to declare in the near future, but here are a few I’m just coming up with now:

  • “What a time! What a civilization” -Cicero. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m sort of nostalgic for times I’ve never lived in. How I wish I were born in another time, in another civilization. But then I think about how much that discounts the time and civilization I currently live in. Won’t there be people just like me in 50, 100, or even 1,000 years who may wish they were born at the same time I was? I’ve realized how unique and exciting it is that I’m coming of age in an era when humans can communicate with each other across time and space in less than a second, when I can  write something and have literally anyone on the planet read it, when I can watch wars, protests, debates, movies about penguins, natural disasters, massive concerts, memes, award shows—history literally being made before my eyes—all on the same screen. I’ve learned not to take the time we live in for granted. Because no matter when I wish I were born, I was born to live now—and what a time it is to be alive.
  • People change. I’ve changed. My friends have changed. My family has changed. The seasons change. Countries change. Ants change. Whales change. Everything changes. Some of those changes I may not like, but in the end, change is inevitable. All that’s left do is accept it. Basically the whole premise of “Downton Abbey” for you.
  • The most important thing in the world for me to possess is empathy. If I don’t let myself have the capacity or the will to understand what it’s like from the “other side’s” perspective, I have no right whatsoever to judge their beliefs.
  • If everything goes in my favor during the next few weeks, I’ll be leaving Orlando behind when I go off to college. That means I’ll have a clean slate, and most of the people I knew here I won’t see again for a while. So I should probably do stuff with them. Fun stuff; memorable stuff. Leave everything on a high note—or no note at all if it comes down to it.
  • There’s a lot of stuff that I still need to figure out. My brain won’t even be fully developed until I’m around 25, so I definitely don’t know everything. If I keep a sense of discovery and wonder, though, that’s a fact I’m totally cool with.

I can’t really expect myself to really heed these tenets constantly—nobody’s that perfect; we all have an inescapable hypocrite in us—but I’ll try to think about them when I’m by myself (or surrounded by equally clueless young adults like me) and in need of advice.

I was named Valedictorian of my class a month ago (though if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re probably my parents or my grandma and therefore already know and have told all of your friends and acquaintances about this), which means I’ll have to give that sappy, advice-laden speech at graduation. So expect more of my ‘declarations’ there—and no, I haven’t started writing the speech yet.

Well, I’m at almost 1200 words right now—that’s a lot longer than I expected to post. I guess I just had a lot to declare, or I spent too much time trying to justify that metaphor.

Unlike the Orlando International Airport, life doesn’t have a Global Entry kiosk. Everybody has to go through customs at some point, and in order to truly move on into the next country we have to declare something. Otherwise, what are we truly bringing with us?


If You Go…

  • Applying for Global Entry is a relatively easy (if time-consuming) process. Just go to this website, enter your information, and schedule an interview.
  • At the interview (usually done at an airport near you), a DHS officer will ask you a few casual questions (nothing you need to prepare for), run your passport and driver’s license, and take your fingerprints. And then you’re in!

2 thoughts on “Anything to Declare, Sir?

  1. I love this! I also really appreciate the line “Unlike the Orlando International Airport, life doesn’t have a Global Entry kiosk.” Best of luck with everything! 🙂

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