I loved the college application process.

Everyone I know thinks I’m crazy for feeling that way. But I found the freedom and risk of researching schools, writing essays and making impossible decisions challenging and exciting in a way that high school never was.

I’m not saying it wasn’t stressful. It was. There’s an unexpected terror and pressure in having to ask questions like: Who am I? What do I want? What do I have to offer? But there is also an exhilarating joy in finding, exploring and articulating those answers.

It was only after enduring the uncertain wait for college decisions, the momentary relief, and then the stressful and delightful finality of choosing a school, that I realized I hadn’t put much thought at all into actually leaving.

I applied solely to out-of-state schools, my imagination taken with the idea of study breaks at the beach or enough snow to sled to and from class. It was only as senior year drew to a close that I suddenly began to comprehend that in order to make any of those dreams come true, I would first have to leave my home.

Growing up in Santa Fe has been such a gift. I am blessed with an incredible family and the best friends ever, and I am head over heels in love with New Mexico’s wide sky and dusty landscape. I constantly ask myself why I would ever want to leave. Without this place, who am I?

I suppose that’s precisely why I’m leaving: to find out.

These last few months at home have been glorious, and I hope that I can continue relishing every moment and pouring my appreciation into all of the places and people that I love so much up until the second I get on that plane.

Once on the plane, I’m sure I’ll be three times as terrified and excited as I am now. This is such a huge change, but it also feels so perfect, so right. I have the very cliche sensation that my life — my very own way of enjoying, exploring and working in the world — is just about to begin discovering itself. I’m breathless and curious and scared. Who knows what I’ll find?

To those just now heading into their senior year, my best bit of advice: Give yourself to the college application process. Of course, college is in a way just another four years of school. But it’s also the beginning of being genuinely independent and finding for yourself who you are, what you want and what you have to offer. The applications not only are the way to get into school; they’re also the best possible preparation for college — and for the bizarre step of moving away.

Even though I’m terrified, I know that this college thing is going to be an adventure, and my only plan is to enjoy it.

Hannah Laga Abram, a 2019 Santa Fe Waldorf School, will attend Middlebury College in Vermont in the fall. Contact her at ceciliasycamore@gmail.com.