Tuesday, August 30, 2011

School Days

Please be kind to me; I just realized that the month of August is nearly spent.  In just more than one week I shall be returning to the hallowed halls of learning to start my final semester of graduate school.  The full meaning of this has yet to sink in, but I am sure that once I go to my first classes and experience that rush of anxiousness that arises whenever I learn just HOW MUCH I will have to do, it will hit hard.

At the risk of sounding like a total lame dweeb, I have to say that I do like the feeling of returning to school in the fall.  My first year out of college, after I had decided that law school was not the path I wished to follow, I found that I was depressed when September came around and all I had was a job to fill my time.  I felt like I was missing something.  I suspect that I was mourning the end of youthful irresponsibility. 

True, this realization should have come much sooner.  Perhaps at graduation time?  But no.  It took the passage of Labor Day followed by a day of the same sort of thing I did the Friday before to really awaken me to the reality.

As much as I would like to think that this was because I just love learning, I think there may be some other factors in play. 

First of all, school is a social outlet.  Every year, we eagerly awaited the end of the school year and the perceived freedom that summer vacation entailed.  Days of sleeping in, playing outside and not having the pressure of grades and homework seemed like heaven. 

In addition to this, summer vacation meant a bit of natural separation from one's friends.  Sure, play dates could be arranged when we were kids, and impromptu gatherings occurred once we were old enough to drive, but that routine daily contact within the safe hallways and classrooms of school were out of the picture.

Normally, the only people that one would see over the summer would be the friends close enough to make an effort to contact.  All other periphery acquaintances were put on hold and out of mind.  (Unless they were cute guys.  We would usually try to make an exception for them.)

By the end of summer, we all had adventures and new stories to share.  We were all a bit more tan.  We all had new clothes.  New pens, folders and notebooks.  We were ready to show off. 

In high school, we always had to make a visit to the school about 1-2 weeks prior to classes starting for "orientation."  Fees were paid, pictures were taken, hugs were given.  It was one's first chance to premier a new look or to wow someone special.  Everyone received and compared their class schedules. 

When we all arrived at school after Labor Day, the excitement had not completely worn off.  Arriving in classes on the first day was always a bit exciting; especially if it turned out that many of your friends were in your class as well.  It was a bonus if one of your crushes was in there as well, as long as it wasn't a class that promised to prove embarrassing at some point (like P.E.). 

As the first week wrapped up, everyone prepared for what was usually one of the first home football games of the season.  At this point in MN, the weather is still nice and the sun is still shining when the game starts.  It was tradition in our school to have a dance on the first Friday as well.  Again, another great venue to show off our tans and bust a move in front of hotties that hadn't seen us all summer.

After a few more weeks, things started to die down, classes got more demanding, tans started to fade.  Homecoming week always stood as the "last hurrah" of the fall before we moved into the long haul of winter that would only really conclude with the start of summer vacation.

I suppose if you don't live in a climate like MN, your feelings about the school year cycle may be different.  For instance, if you live in Texas, you may enjoy warm weather year-round and your ability to tan may not be dependent on your willingness to fry in a tanning bed or apply orange-tinted lotion.

But for us, the celebration of fall was essential before entering our coccoons for winter to emerge pale and pasty in the chilly sunshine of spring. 

So for all you students out there returning to the world of academia next week, enjoy yourselves.  The next couple of months are the best of the year, so make the most of them.  Even though I am a 31 year-old graduate student, I shall endeavor to share in the spirit of the new year as well.  Minus, of course, the dances, football games, and P.E.  Oh, and the tan.  I am definitely without the tan.

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