Back to school season was always my favorite.
I loved summer too, but by early July I’d be longing to go back like a mosquito longs for the sweetness of human blood.
I’d wait for the day my class list was posted (elementary school) or my schedule came in the mail (middle/high school) with an all-consuming anticipation that is now reserved only for… uhh… there’s gotta be something I still look forward to besides the eventual relief of death, right?… hmmm… OK THE JIG IS UP I HAVEN’T BEEN HAPPY IN YEARS. Just kidding. Kind of? Let’s move on.
Back to school shopping was the best part. I am literally almost having an orgasm right now thinking about how it felt to buy new mechanical pencils and white-out pens. (Click here to read about my love affair with Trapper Keepers.)
And the clothes! Oh my goodness, the clothes. The look and feel and smell of a crisp new pair of jeans on your legs after a summer spent in swimming suits.
But it wasn’t actually about the supplies or the clothes. It was about the fantasy. It was about the new friends to whom you would write notes with those pencils, and the parties you’d go to in that new pair of jeans.
And it wasn’t entirely fantasy—there was a lot of truth to it.
Every school year did bring new friends and new experiences and was guaranteed to be vastly different than the last. Every August, the universe hit the re-set button for you and rolled out a whole new expanse of possibilities at your doorstep.
I’ve been thinking about all of this lately because of two events:
1) I walked into Staples last week to buy a new scanner and HOLY CRAP THAT STORE SMELLS LIKE BACK TO SCHOOL. If the devil had materialized at my local Staples that moment and said “Let’s make a deal,” I hands down would have offered my soul in exchange for a new trapper keeper and pack of glue sticks (and, of course, the promise of a new school year).
2) Doug and I have been packing to move to a new apartment. Moving apartments was the back to school shopping of college. In college I moved every single year, so I associate the act of moving with new beginnings just as much as I do trapper keepers.
While packing today, I could feel the excitement of new possibilities instinctively rising in my body. I realized that I was physically and psychologically conditioned to be looking forward to the start of something new, just because I happened to be moving in July.
I had to keep pausing to remind myself that—except for a new apartment—nothing in my life is actually changing. I will keep going to the same job, and there is no reason to assume I’m about to make a bunch of new friends or suddenly get invited to cool parties.
This is only the second year that the universe hasn’t re-set itself for me. After college I had two years of grad school. The following fall I started my new life in Iowa. The fall after that, I started my new job.
But now life has plateaued, and one of our tasks at this life stage is to figure out what to do about that. Life will always bring changes, but it will never again be as easy or guaranteed as a fresh start every August. From here on out, it’s up to us to create the movement in our own lives. To be intentional about the way we live so that one year does not blur into the next into an indistinguishable infinity.
My friend Marnie once said, “If you want to live an interesting life, you have to put work into it. It won’t just come to you.”
I’m still sad that the school phase of my life has come to an end. It’s not a small thing to lose the system that raised you, and always promised to keep you safe and hopeful. But I also see it as an important challenge.
So here’s to paving my own ever-changing life, learning how to press my own re-set button when I need to, and occasionally sneaking into Staples to press my nose up against the sweet hard plastic of a trapper keeper. (They’re back, you know!)
^My first week of college, 2005.