I am sure that my perspective has changed now that I am an adult many years displaced from my days as a student, but some of the most emotionally turbulent days of my youth were those last few days before school started. Obviously, a part of me was an angst-ridden child, full of woe, lamenting how I wasted my summer on things like sports and fun and friends rather than some intangible joy that would be forever lost. However, there was also a secret inner joy that I would go back to school and get to learn things. I was that child who read books during the summer, so school reinforced that part of me.
Now that I am an adult, I have to ask myself, "What have I done that has allowed me to grow as a person?" Too often we get into our comfort zones and we cruise from there. An endless summer of doing what we love and never worrying about the end of summer and the return to growth. It sounds like it's fun, but think about it. How long can one live with only the same interests and hobbies they had when they left school? I know several people who I went to school with who still talk fondly of those days because high school was "the best time ever." That makes me sad, because it means the past 30-odd years have basically been downhill from there. Maybe not a tragic fall from some grand heights, but I would feel horrible if my life peaked in my teens or even twenties. Even at this age, I like to think there's still more to come.
To the writers out there, most of whom are wondering where this drawn-out discussion of my youth is going, I offer this: Pick up a book totally out of your familiarity/comfort zone, and read it in September. If you are a fiction devotee, grab an autobiography. Do you like high fantasy? Grab a book about unlocking the structure of DNA (The Double Helix by Watson and What Mad Pursuit by Crick make for a nice complementary pair of good reads on the subject). Go outside your zone like a child walking into their new classroom and getting handed a new textbook. Explore something new and intriguing. Swim in new waters. Reclaim that one part of school that made it interesting.
And, like all school experiences, there will be homework as well. I call upon you to write something new and outside your realm. Normally I would suggest a poem to all those non-poets out there, but it can be anything. Write down a childhood memory as seen through your adult eyes. Write an opinion piece about one side or the other of this whole student-loan debate. Write an extended thank-you note to literally any teacher who changed your life (living or dead). Reclaim whatever shred of joy you found from school, and bring it back to life if only for one day.
And no chewing gum in class!