Monday, August 20, 2018

Happy Not Back to School

“Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms.” (Joe Fox, 1998)

Yet another beautiful time of the year to share my love for my very favorite movie and display how well it correlates with my life. Nora Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail” has been the movie that has clutched dearly to my heart since I was a little girl. I watch it six to twelve times a year, and I find more charm in it with every viewing.

Every back to school season, I think of Joe and Kathleen exchanging the aroma and nostalgia this time of year brings. I’m always able to add on to the sweet list of imagery Joe Fox creates.

For me, Back to School has always been the true New Year. A new year to make bold decisions and set goals for the next nine months. A new wardrobe to help define yourself. A brand new supply of pens, stationary, journals and a shiny new planner. And a new outlook that always makes you want to strut onto a rooftop and shout “THIS IS MY YEAR, IT IS FINALLY MY TIME TO THRIVE, LET’S DO THIS!”

This happens year after year. Second grade, eighth grade, even junior year of college. A new academic school year brings a redefined self.

However, that power mantra and attitude shifts slightly when there is no school to be going back to. For the first time in roughly eighteen years, I am having trouble smelling the scent of newly sharpened pencils. As a graduate, my chains attached to the academic calendar have been cut free and I am not going back to school this fall, a feeling that I have never known.

I feel as though I am the frustrated pupil begging the teacher to share the answer on the test, and not getting very far with this plead. After catching up with many of my classmates and other recent graduates around the country, we are all feeling the exact same way.

None of us has it more figured out than the other. But, here is what has been on my heart with the back to school season approaching. Tips for all of us to consider, Back to School for the Non Back to Schooler.

Create a Constant
Routine, of any variation or capacity is good for us. Students experience immense amount of growth during the school year because a routine is at hand. For many, a work schedule creates a steady routine that brings forward purpose and consistency. Maybe consider a guaranteed event that happens every week to enhance that continuity. Sign up for a class that meets weekly, something warm and familiar to you or something completely out of the blue that may bring great discovery and growth. A dance class, cooking class, improv class, yoga class… possibilities are endless. Consider a weekly church service or time of community and reflection. Creating a consistent world you can flock to once a week that is not your workplace or your roommates will bring revival and something exciting to look forward to.

A cluttered house reflects a cluttered mind. But, I also believe the same is true about a cluttered social media feed. Of course, purge all of the old clothes, items and momentos that are keeping you from moving past your college years. I would also urge you to do the same with your social media algorithm. We are now living in a world where the majority of our day interacting with “others” is through a screen rather than real life. Never forget: you CHOOSE who you follow. If you are consistently putting yourself down or wondering “why not me?” after scrolling through instagram, Facebook, or twitter… click the unfollow button and never look back. Be kind to them when you see them on the train, but do not feel that you must carry the weight of their social media presence just because you received your diploma the same day that they did. 
As insane as it is, a mighty social media purge can be your greatest form of self care for a good while. Do something for yourself now that you are off campus. Rid the toxicity out of your sight. If you are allowing screen time to consume your day, at least flood it with positivity and folks that will challenge you to grow.

Set Goals
If it seems as though the rest of the world is starting afresh this August, you can too. Find the excitement that this completely open world is sending you and run with it! Set goals for the next month, three months, nine months. Proclaim a mantra that is yours. Revel in the fact that you did that thing you never thought you could do. Just because you are not living in a penthouse with your dream career does not mean you are not on your way to that. You are still so young in this world, but allow each day to be a step closer to that dream.
Be proud of how far you have already come and designate this new non-school year to the greatest year of growth you have ever had. Just because your time in school is over does not mean you are finished learning. Make mistakes and push forward. Write your goals down and ask a friend to hold you accountable to these goals. This is the best group project a teacher could assign.

And so, as a very vulnerable recent grad, I assure you I am taking all of these things to heart as well. I am on a suffocating job hunt, struggling to find clear direction and purpose, and for the first time in a long while, actually wishing I was back at school; simply for the comfort and the ease of being able to say “I’m still in school.” But, I am charging forward, knowing that my current thoughts and fears are valid and very easy to overcome.

This back to school, I am buying myself a new outfit for whatever my next big “first day” might be, drinking an iced coffee, and busting my rump to inaugurate this new year of possibilities. Because, it is back to school time and I still have a mighty amount of growth and learning to do.

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