The key clicks out of the lock as I wave goodbye to my father. It’s a crisp, clear January morning, the sky still dark and the temperature still low. I turn away from the gate and my house as I start my walk towards La Cueva.

Walking towards school through the lot, I try to keep warm in the chilly morning.

This scene may be ordinary to most people, but to me this is an opportunity of highest magnitude. This first year of high school marks a new era of freedom for me: the ability to walk to and from school. And as a bonus, both done without adults.

I’m well aware that’s not the norm with most other students. I’ve seen many children, whether alone or in small groups, walking towards the halls of education. They’re left to their own devices and the weather of the day. For many years, this was my pastime, to observe this sacred event, a look but don’t touch kind of thing.

Sitting in a car, my mother, father or both at the front, I remember looking upon my peers and thinking ‘There’s something that I want to do. The Rite of Passage.’ And now, walking through a dirt lot in 20 degree temperatures, I’m more than certain I’ve completed this rite.

Everyone I knew told me that the joy of walking alone would wear off quickly. That the silence would bother you, and when the weather turned cold, you would wish for the car again. But that hasn’t happened.

Personally, I like the silence of a single person and nature. Where the only things I can hear are the gusts of wind and my own breath. The joy of being alone, with no human staring, when it’s me and me only, is the bursting of a lock on my soul.

Dirt coats my shoes, thorns and tumbleweeds reach for my coat, and the air around my mouth turns white from the combination of warm and cold air, but I can’t stop smiling.