As I shook off the last remnants of sleep this morning, I heard the school bus go down the street, scavenging for any highschooler unlucky enough to have neither a driver’s license and a car nor a friend willing to pick him up. It’s the first day of school.
Just the sound of the bus can conjure up the feelings of anticipation when, as children on the first day of school, we realized that we had come one more step closer to paradise—that day when we would be adults and school was out for us forever. We would be free to do what we wanted, with no one ordering us around, no homework, and we wouldn’t be confined to a desk seven hours a day. We had no idea that we were one step closer to the ultimate disillusionment: adulthood would never be as carefree or unrestricted as any childhood day of summer vacation. But we didn’t know that then. We looked forward to seeing friends, finding our new classroom, and finally opening that new box of crayons.
Now I teach young people on the cusp of adulthood. In a couple of weeks, they’ll leave their parents and homes, and move into our dorms. They will look forward to studying the field they’ve chosen, making lifelong friends, and perhaps finding that one true love. It will be their first taste of what adulthood will be like, and it will be a shock. Yes, there will be parties, but there will also be laundry. Yes, there are no enforced bedtimes, but there will be 7:15 classes. Yes, there will be freedom to go out for Taco Bell every night, but such indulgences will cost precious spending money, and Mom’s not around to hand out a twenty.
For now, let’s just revel in the remembered smell of pencil shavings, sweeping compound, sweaty children, and chalk dust. Good luck on the first day of school; may it really be all you’ve dreamed.