And so the final curtain call. After 26 consecutive years playing the role of a student attending an educational institution, it is time to say goodbye.

Playing this role has been remarkable. I was too young to have memories of when it first began but can say with some certainty that I remember most of the performances. I traversed the planet. I learned languages. I studied abroad while studying abroad. I saw fireworks in four different countries on three different continents. I went by different names. I played the extrovert and was told not to talk in class so much and yet was selected for school plays and church readings. I played the introvert and was told to speak up in class and not be shy. I read a lot; it turns out mostly the wrong books. But at least I learned to read. I wrote a lot too; it turns out that was helpful for when writing became part of the job. Good thing the voices were always so chatty.

What strikes me now is that playing this role has been the sole focus of my life so far. It is all I have ever done or known. That focus gave me expertise. I honed the skill over the more than two decades of practice. It was validation. It provided safety. It was home. I am not sure who I am without the part. In some ways, I am hesitant what the next phase brings after such a long-term role. It is not that I will stop learning like a student. But I wonder what happens when the goal of getting a degree or graduating is no longer part of the life timeline. I wonder if the skills that translate (assuming any in fact do) to whatever it is that the adults call the real world are still limited without that particular end goal. And I wonder what that end goal is in the so-called real world.

Living in Arizona for nearly four years, the real world certainly came knocking. In Arizona, I found two things: the desert and the ghosts. One is beautiful. The other tells stories. So I learned to stare at the colors of spectacular sunsets and listen. I was a scribe to the stories of the desert ghosts. I wonder if that ends with the end of this role. I hope not. I suppose before I leave this state, I may have some sort of real world end goal. Or maybe not. Perhaps it is time to be without. It would be a first.

I suppose time will tell. What I hope now more than anything is to be able to look back on this role with gratitude. To appreciate these final days and the final performances. To think about the performances, the terrible ones, the awesome ones, and everything in between and smile. If, for nothing else, believe that the performances were every bit worth it.

And then take a bow. After all, it has truly been a role of a lifetime.