One of the transitions out of college, and schooling in general, and in to the workplace that was difficult for me was the lack of meaningful delineation from one year to the next. When you're working, life year-to-year can seem pretty much the same -- there's no agreed-upon schedule for "moving up" the way there is in school, and not any place where a fresh start is proclaimed. That's one of the many reasons I love working at a school now. I love September, the new beginning, the fresh opportunity to do better. I am an eternal optimist.
A lesson for me for these last two weeks that's really coming to a head now has been changing my sense of back-to-school transitions away from a process of buying things. I've felt a little empty, at odds, rattling around feeling somehow we weren't adequately doing this whole back-to-school thing at our house, and I realized it's because we aren't spending money on anything. Dean needed a haircut a few weeks ago so he's still all set there. We'd bought new shoes in the early summer that still fit and that hardly saw use all summer (sandal season!) so no need there. I watched for sales and picked up the few things (a new raincoat, some jeans and long-sleeved shirts) along the way, so no special shopping trips for clothes. And finally, our school doesn't have supply lists for the kids -- the things they need will be provided. So I'm trying to think about building some of our own traditions that aren't about buying stuff. I think, too, now that Dean is heading into 4th grade we've all become old hands at back-to-school -- Dean is excited, to be sure, and is completely looking forward to going back, to connecting with friends, to being with his teacher whom he already knows pretty well -- there's no need to carefully negotiate this process for him anymore. I think we'll bake cookies and take a long walk or two and maybe talk about our hopes for the year. Oh, and try to get the mice out of the garage as humanely as possible.
[above: from All Over the Map; an Extraordinary Atlas of the United States by David Jouris]