Let’s go back to August 1997. I’m two, strawberry-blonde, and sporting baby tooth smile. I’m headed off to pre-school this year, the first time that I can remember being away from my home and family for more than a few hours. I’m enrolled in Miss. Robbin’s class at The Caring Place, or under its new name, the Village School.
I don’t remember my first day past vaguely gripping my mother’s legs until a strange woman coaxed me into this colorful room full of chairs that were my size and children that were my age. However, as my mother recalls, I kinda waltzed in, established myself as a classmate, and became the one everyone wanted to play with.
Eventually, I got used to the routine of mid-afternoon naps with other kids, Spanish and English lessons, and recess. When I think back to my time at The Caring Place, I have a few very distinct memories. I remember our Halloween party, scooter/bike day, and our aquarium themed performance. I remember going to the big school next door, Sea Gate Elementary School, and playing on their playground which had my favorite recess activity––the swings. I remember the second year of pre-school better than the first. I’m not sure if it was Miss. Misty’s doing (my second pre-school teacher) or whether my mind and memory were developing more, but she threw a wild St. Patrick’s Day party that will always stay with me. Picture your teacher trashing your classroom with chairs thrown about the room, tables upside down, and glitter everywhere as the students are tasked with making “leprechaun traps” that were made out of decorated shoe boxes propped up with sticks as lucky charms were strewn about underneath.
However, 1997 was technically my first “back-to-school” season, so here I am in 2019 realizing I won’t be going back-to-school this 2019-2020 school year and I won’t again for the foreseeable future.
That thought, feeling, the idea is strange. Not being a student is foreign to me in all sense of the word. I hit the month of August and the first thing I think about is going back to school, hell even my partner brought up that he received his tuition bill yesterday. Even when I graduated early from my undergrad, and lived at home for a fraction of the 2016-2017 school year, that Fall I was taking courses at the local education center and applying to grad school.
I think the “strange” realization ruminated in my mind somewhere between May and July. It was the May when I graduated and had the first thought of “it’s over.” That then manifested in my subconscious until my inbox received it’s first “back-to-school email” of the 2019 season in July —it was then that I realized just how strange it is to be done.
Most people can’t wait to be done with school, and I feel that on lots of different levels too, but at the same time, I love it. I love going and learning more about the subjects I find interesting and being in a classroom with my peers. I love the consistency of a schedule and packing my backpack with books, notebooks, freshly sharpened Ticonderoga pencils, and Sharpie fine point, felt pens. I didn’t love the tests and the books I was forced to read. I didn’t love the six am wake up calls and final papers. There were the downfalls that came with “I don’t want to get up” that every student experiences, but at the end of the year, when summer came, I was always excited for August. Always until now.
When I first started applying to jobs after my graduation, I saw an ad for a masters program that was offered online for mental health counseling. I was job hunting for all of 2 minutes before I saw the ad and considered going back to school for yet another degree. In my mind, my “forever-student” mentality is the reason I am facing a crippling amount of debt. I think this “strange” feeling stems from being worried about not being as successful as I aspire to be, but it also glosses over what it is I owe because of school.
It is coming down to understanding how attending school became my crutch but manifesting the fear into subconsciously putting off getting a job does nothing for where I want to be in the future. Because when it comes down to it, I’m scared to not be in school because I don’t know what is to come when I am no longer “a student.”
It’s August, the 2nd of August to be exact, and as I apply to more jobs that I can’t fathom doing means I am missing the idea of going back to school in the coming weeks. As I interview for jobs I start missing the tests, final papers, and book reports. I miss picking out my first-day outfit and going to Target with my mom for new school supplies.
I want to have the structure and rigidity of a “classroom” and “schedule” in my next life after school but I can’t seem to find the right match. All of this stress of finding work is making me miss my yearly “first-day” photos at the front door. I feel like there is so much more to learn from the world, but I worry about the jobs I am applying to what teach me what I want and need to learn. I am looking for the balance, but I haven’t found it yet, and I am nervous I won’t find it. So happy August everyone, I know good things will come, so I am trying to be as patient as I was in middle school when I was “so over these first day photos.”