Once the beginning of September rolls around, TV and newspapers are filled with images of preppy kids in long sleeved shirts, jeans and jackets excitedly taking on great outdoor playgrounds as they go back to school. When one grows up in Arizona, the start of the school year is simply an extended summer — it’s still 110 degrees outside, phys-ed teachers still make you run the half mile regardless of the heat index, and those images of children in long-sleeved clothes are pure fantasy. Just as the summer reached its hottest point, and the world moved as slow as molasses, that was the time that school started again.
As a kid, I both loved and dreaded the end of weeknight slumber parties. The new school year was an exciting opportunity to transition another year of life – to grow, learn and stretch. It signified renewal and a chance to embark upon great adventures. By June of the following year, I’d be in an entirely new place and it would seem as though lifetimes had passed. Staples used to run a commercial with parents sailing down the aisles in shopping carts singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” (It was my parents’ favorite.) While they were celebrating the kids’ return to 8-4 entertainment, I was celebrating the purchase of school supplies and new clothes. One of my favorite rituals was the August trip to Target. The front of the store was filled with fresh school supplies: pencils, notebooks, paper, backpacks —everything a student could possibly need. I’d spend far too much time color coordinating and planning out which tools to use for each subject while my father and brother would spend five minutes selecting his items and the rest of the time rolling their eyes about my obsessive-compulsiveness.
As I moved into adulthood, September took upon a different meaning. My first job out of college was for an enterprise software start-up company and nearly everything except the paycheck felt wonderfully like school. After that, as each new school year dawned, I’d become painfully aware that there really wasn’t as much anticipation in life. My mother said it was because we have more years to reflect upon as we become adults and that often, there is much less change in our lives. A three-year hiatus from the real world to go to grad school confirmed this for me. By the time my 30s hit, September was just the month after August and before October. I lived in NYC and would cling to every last warm day before fall began and I begrudgingly donned my own long-sleeved gear.
Now, I’m a parent. Our son is nearly two and is starting school for the first time. The school year has meaning again. I feel the excitement and anticipation of a milestone in his life and all the learning and growing he will do. (There are fewer school supplies to purchase, but he does have a new wardrobe.) Unlike many, his first day of school wasn’t a tear jerker for me. It was the exact opposite (and not because I was sailing through the Staples aisles). Seeing the classroom brought back happy memories: the phonics flashcards, the real-life skills activities, the small beads for counting and learning math. For a split second, I remembered what it was like to be a little kid and approach the newness of life. My mom would be so excited about it. Now I get to instill that enthusiasm in my children and help them look forward to change. How wonderful it would be to approach every day life with such vigor
Maybe we can. If the school year simply means renewal and positive anticipation of change, then it can serve as my reminder to create the same adult version life experiences. My husband and I embarked upon this path already as of New Year’s Day. We moved across the world, renovated a home, changed jobs, moved back and had another child in less than 12 months. January 1st of 2014 seems like another lifetime ago and it’s a wonderful feeling. We’ve experienced a tremendous amount of newness and mindful living. I’ve had my own nine months of learning, growing (literally and physically) and stretching. We earned an A+ in the change department.
September 2014 feels like another call to keep the change alive. So from here on in, as I see my kids off to school, purchase their school supplies and wardrobes, and set them on their own paths, I can do the same for myself.