New Year, New Me?

Back to school takes on new meaning
Three Kids Heading Off To School

 

Most of the jobs I’ve had since becoming an adult have warped my sense of time. 

When I worked in book publishing, we always planned and designed our fall catalog in the spring. 

When I worked in magazines, we were working two months out, so we’d be planning a Halloween issue in the heat of August, a Christmas issue while skeleton decorations were hanging all over the office, a Valentine’s issue while everyone else was singing Christmas carols. 

And then there’s the academic world, in which the “new year” starts in August. 

I still make resolutions on Jan. 1 (and then break them by Jan. 6) like everyone else, but I get my biggest “fresh start” rush at the start of every school year when I open my new academic calendar, spruce up my office, and meet all of the new students. 

As a mom, too, I get jazzed every year to buy new clothes and new backpacks and put the list of Important Dates up on the fridge, fully believing that this year we will have a great homework routine and a bin of healthy after-school snacks at the ready and I’ll never again forget dress-up days or somehow drive my kid all the way to school without realizing that she’s barefoot and her shoes are back at the house. (These always go the way of traditional resolutions, for the record.)

This year, the changes are even more pronounced than usual, the prospect of a clean slate both more promising and more intimidating. 

My stepson will be officially headed off to college after doing his freshman year from home due to COVID-19. My older daughter will be starting high school at a new school. My younger daughter will be switching from the school she has attended since the age of 2 to a school much closer to our house. This will be our first year since COVID-19 where we will be totally back in-person. And of course, we will be doing all of this without having my mom as backup, as she’s been for my kids’ entire lives. I’ve never had to fill out an emergency form without her on it, and it makes such a mundane task exquisitely painful. 

Ultimately, I’m excited for all of them. The freedom and independence of campus life will be good for my stepson. My older daughter will have a chance to explore her passions and hone her identity. My younger daughter will get to meet new people and spread her wings a bit. 

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also scared and worried. High school and college are higher stakes; the peer pressure intensifies; the choices get much bigger; the course work gets more challenging. What if my younger one doesn’t make friends? What if she struggles academically? What if she gets lost? How strictly is the uniform policy enforced? 

Every new beginning, whether it comes in January or August, has this same blend of exhilaration and thrilling possibilities … and blind terror of the unknown, of what’s to come, of what cannot ever be fully anticipated. 

As anxiety-provoking as it can be, though, I’m lucky to get this opportunity not once but twice every year. Because if I don’t get it right this month, I can always try again come January. 

Happy New Year, everyone!