All throughout my life, Back-to-School ads and displays brought about feelings of
both excitement and dread. Excitement for new school supplies that ignited a passion for stationery that remains today and dread for all the pressures that school brings. I became a teacher, so this annual ritual remained with me until the year I retired. That first retired July when I spotted the first Back-to-School sale in the local department store, I stopped in my tracks, pointed, and began laughing. My husband assumed it was my joy at being able to purchase more supplies. No! It was the first time that Back-to-School meant absolutely nothing! No sense of impending doom, no need to stock up on supplies, nothing. I was officially free!
I was a good student in spite of (or maybe because of) attending fourteen schools in two countries by the time I graduated. I was always shy and the start of school meant having to meet new friends and find where I would fit in. August would mark the start of my digestive ills and sleepless nights. By the end of September, this would settle down somewhat, but every Sunday evening I would experience the August effect.
Later in life, I began to realize that August was the Sunday of the year. All of the preparation for the return to the classroom; all the worry and panic that I wouldn't be able to perform up to my own ridiculously high standards; all that and more... I grew to dread August and Sundays.
September was the Monday of the year. I'd hit the ground running at a frenetic pace and just know that if I could get through it okay, things would be doable.
Skip ahead to Thursday, which was very much like May, stay as late and do as much as possible so that Friday wouldn't require another 12-14 hour day to wrap up. All the tests, Friday Folders, plans for the coming week would have to be prepared. May was standardized test time, senior project deadlines were looming, the end of the year push and all the special events filled the month.
Finally June/Friday arrived. Everything was wrapped up or planned for the upcoming week/year. I would leave school with an incredible lightness of mind and spirit. July/Saturday would be all mine. No planning or thoughts of school, just time to do whatever I wanted. July/Saturday was the most glorious time of the year.
Now I am retired I have noticed an interesting shift. Sunday nights bring a Friday-like exhilaration. I know that on Monday, the rest of the world will be back at work. The stores, roads, parks and restaurants will be less crowded. The entire workweek is at my disposal. I love this free time! As Friday evening comes, I begin to get the former Sunday dread. I have to share my surroundings with others. I no longer have total freedom of space and time. How wonderful to have a two-day week with five-day weekends.
The calendar year doesn't have the same feel as it used to either. I don't exactly relish summers. Parks are crowded. Camping is pretty much out of the question. Hiking trails are mobbed. And worst of all, it is HOT. I find myself anxiously awaiting the arrival of September with its crisp mornings, vacant public spaces and openness. Almost the entire year has become my playground. Retirement is magical.
This past week I encountered my first Back-to-School sale. I waited for any kind of feeling. Nothing. No dread, no nerves, no relief, no excitement. It's official...I finally graduated.