For an Ashland High School alumnus, making the decision to stay in town and attend Southern Oregon University for college is tough; but some of us do it anyway.

After all, most of us have spent our entire lives nestled here in the beautiful valley that lies between Grizzly Peak and Mount Ashland. We attended elementary schools that no longer exist, have the same friends we've had our whole lives, shopped in every store and eaten in every restaurant, and watched Shakespeare plays each summer as casually as we would new movies at the Cinema.

So to choose to stay here within the familiar, when we know that there is a great, big world out there just waiting to be discovered, is not something that can be decided overnight. As much as we love our hometown, making the choice to stay here for four more years can be a difficult decision &

one that is contemplated at great lengths, dependent on numerous factors and influences, and often, after being decided, still difficult to believe.

I, for instance, didn't even realize that I had truly made my decision to attend SOU until I was sitting with my academic advisor and signing up for an 8 a.m. advanced math course for the fall. Wake up honey, I thought, this is really happening. The strange part about this realization however was that, despite all of the torn feelings I'd had about attending SOU, I wasn't disappointed at all. Sure I was numb and completely bewildered, but as I walked out of the room with my fall schedule in my hand I felt nothing but mounting excitement.

This is interesting because at first I was devastated when I realized that I could not afford to follow my passion for musical theater at a private arts college in Seattle. I cried and was angry at everyone involved; my parents for not being rich enough to send me or poor enough to qualify for government aid, the financial aid department for giving me so few scholarships, and finally the school itself, for ever having accepted me in the first place, dangling my dream just out of grasp.

But, very quickly, I have come to terms with my loss and at the same time I have become excited about my future. This is because my list of pros for attending SOU continues to grow longer each day, while the cons fade away.

The first pros are the generous scholarships that I have received. Thanks to them, I am about to embark on an incredible college adventure that I will not be reminded of by student loan bills in my mailbox each month. Another pro is that SOU has an amazing reputation, and I am honored to follow the foot prints that both of my parents have left on its campus. I also look forward to living on campus and meeting other students from all over while looking at Ashland through new eyes and still having my family nearby. In addition, I am excited to attend a school with a ratio of five students per teacher. I could go on and on, but there you have it. I am headed down a path that I never expected to travel; but that is okay. "Life happens when you are busy making other plans," my mom always says, quoting John Lennon. Although I groan every time, I know that they are both right.

So each night before I go to bed I pull on my grey Southern Oregon University sweatshirt and then, I rest easy with my decision.