September is my New Year. Most Canadians celebrate their New Year in January with the blowing of noise-makers, the observing of balls dropping (the NYC kind of course), and through the setting of resolutions, most of which will be abandoned before their New Year’s hangovers wear off. Though I participate in most traditional New Year’s activities, in my heart my New Year begins with the first day of school.
As a child, I anticipated the first day of school as though it were Christmas morning. I couldn’t sleep because my head was filled with questions about who my teacher would be, which classmates would be sitting beside me, and whether my best friends would be in the same class or miles away in the classroom adjacent.
As a teen I continued to anticipate the start of school with only slightly less enthusiasm and curiosity over who my teachers would be. I’ve always been a bit of a nerd on the academic front. I would be up late the night before the first day of school planning my outfit, my hair, and my grand entrance into the school after two months away. Then I would lay in bed thinking of the boys I met over summer, and the boys who would be at school the next day. What can I say, I was 15.
As a University student the first day of school was thrilling. Shiny new textbooks, engaging new classes, seeing all my friends who went home over break and worked for the summer. And then, inevitably, we partied. Assignments weren’t due for months, midterms weren’t due for weeks, and we had the whole semester ahead of us. The sky was the limit, and so we flew.
As a professional, I found myself again in the school system and I anticipated the first day of school in many of the same ways. I laid out my outfit, planned and packed my meals, and set my alarm clock knowing I would be want for sleep that night. I would lay in bed thinking of the projects I would accomplish that year, the teachers and colleagues I would team with, and the students who inevitably teach me more than I would ever teach them.
For the last 29 years, the first of school has been a monumental day in my life. It has been a day of new beginnings and fresh starts, of shiny new shoes and meticulously sharpened pencils.
This year was different.
This year for the first time in 29 years, for reasons completely out of my control, I didn’t have a first day of school.
I watched the school buses picking up the eagerly awaiting children, I saw the hundreds of ‘first day of school’ pics posted by my friends and family to their social media accounts, and I bid my husband farewell as he left for his own first day of school.
And I started a new chapter. A New year. In every sense of the word.
I don’t have a new outfit, just my leggings and a comfy sweater.
I don’t have any sharpened pencils, just the washable markers that are strewn about the house.
I don’t have to pack meals, commute, set an alarm clock, or finish homework assignments.
I don’t have a plan. I have a blank slate. And it’s terrifying. And exhilarating.
In my heart, my New Year has always begun on the first day of school, and I believe that a part of me will always feel that September is the time for fresh starts. It is no coincidence that my fresh start, my turning of a blank page, happened in September. It is truly a time of new beginnings, and once again the sky is the limit.
So I guess I did have a first day after all. Now all I have to do is fly.