I liked school and never minded the transition from unstructured summer to new routines in a new classroom. I looked forward to the fresh notebooks, wearing new clothes and the variety of things to learn. Sure, there were anxieties and dreads: What the heck is algebra? Is Mr. Tomajko as tough as kids say? What if I can't learn French? But the rhythm of the school year said "new start," and I always bought into it.
The first year I no longer went to school, I lay awake in an attic apartment after an overnight waitressing shift in a truck stop, listening to the kids outside gather at their bus stop. I ached to be one of them instead of an overeducated, underemployed adult searching for a meaningful life in a world that was uninterested in an unseasoned girl who simply loved words.
Over the years, that yearning for the new school year faded, although I sometimes recaptured it by taking an occasional course or teaching one. It did not fade for my sister, who as a teacher employed right out of college kept trooping off to school uninterrupted until she retired. That happened a number of years ago, and she still gets depressed when "everyone" is going to school except her.
She misses school at other times, too. She told me once, "I can't get anything done because there are no bells." The daily bells marking off the school day gave her life a structure that retirement lacks.
So it is with the back-to-school ritual. The change in routine is a marker for a fresh start and something that should probably be emulated in the business world. The fiscal year just doesn't cut it. We all need new teachers, new notebooks and a new reason to get excited about work.