On Not Going Back to School

School office supplies.

School office supplies on board.

I’m sixty years old now, and it’s been decades since I’ve been in school, but I feel compelled to admit that, when I was young, I was one of those  really geeky (that’s a word we didn’t have when I was growing up) girls who loved school.  I loved textbooks, especially the way that they made it seem as if everything were simple, understandable, related.  I loved the paraphernalia:  three-ring binders with dividers and those colored windows into which you tucked tiny labels for different subjects, the three-hole plastic pencil case that went in the front of the bider and held pens, pencils, compass, protractor, ruler, little pencil sharpener, the three-by-five notebook for homework assignments, and those wonderful little fabric reinforcers that I put on each of the three holes on every page of notes so that, even by the end of the semester, everything stayed just where it belonged.  I loved schedules and syllabi and supplemental reading lists.

Put it down to growing up in a messy, disorganized, dysfunctional family.  Mastering my classes helped me to feel as if my entire world was not, in fact, spiraling out of control or down into perpetual failure.  I figured out early on that academic achievement earned me the positive attention for which my home life left me thirsty.  And, so, there’s little surprise that I spent more than a quarter of a century in school and nearly two decades teaching it, as well.

And, even still, after all these years, there’s something about the way the late August light dapples the woodland garden in the morning and slants across my suburban street in the evening; something about the slightly cool, misty mornings and the brilliant, sunny afternoons; something about the way that food starts to taste good again and new music starts to seem interesting.  Like the old fire-horse, put out to pasture, who hears the bells, my blood begins to stir, I get a hankering to take everything into hand and to “wreak order” on my life.  I start to think that new things might be possible.

Most mornings, I drive to work past a local, urban university.  I watch the undergrads walk to class and think:  if only I could get back to being that in control of my life.  If only I felt that I had a limited number of tasks and that, if I could just manage to do each one well, well, then, at the end of the semester, my life would tote up nicely, likely at 3.95.

That’s the problem with adulthood, isn’t it?  No clear semesters, no nice grades and evaluations?

Today, I took my car in for its emissions tests, pulled enough weeds to make myself very sore, harvested only about a third of the bok choy, sent off a brief, and washed off the bok choy.  No one graded me.  I was sure it wasn’t enough.  None of the nice tools that I used to love — binders and pens and plastic cases — did me any good.

And yet, and yet, and yet.  There’s that light in the mornings.  There is.

Picture found here.






3 responses to “On Not Going Back to School

  1. I enjoyed this post and had thought about the same, but you wrote it much better, and captured the sweetness that I couldn’t find. Yes, that’s the adulthood problem, if I’m like you and you’re like me (and it sounds like it), we step onto a treadmill sometime after leaving school. No semesters, and no one grades us for the things we know must be done, that we do, for seeking truth, or helping others. But that’s part of what we picked up from those binders, pens, classrooms and teachers. Cheers, M

  2. About a week ago the morning air smelled like summer’s end and the birds were talking about migration coming. I’m just retired and still I dream of fresh notebooks with colored tabs and case of my favorite pens. I always wondered why but I think you’ve hit on it: it’s an opportunity to start over and get life just right this time. Our hearts get ready for school every fall even decades after graduation.

  3. Beautiful! Yes, there is that light in the mornings and I will always be drawn to splashy new pens, markers, and journals. It felt like you wrote this post from my life.

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