For the past week or so, Heidi and I have noticed the tang of autumn in the air. The signs of Fall were more evident as we went for our bike ride this morning. The air was crisp and cool. We saw youngsters on their way to school. When we stopped in at Tall Grass Prairie Bakery for a couple of large, fresh cinnamon buns we were told they were already all gone. It was the first day of school, and the supply of these freshly baked delicacies had been cleaned out for teachers' meetings.
The first day of school reminds me that once again the season is changing. What will this new season bring?
This day also brings back so many memories. Memories of past first days of school. Probably the most remarkable first day of school memory for me is the first time I didn't go back to school. All my friends went back to school. My siblings went back to school. I kept going to work. That day felt very strange. It just didn't feel right. Something was missing.
There was no excitement; no eager and nervous anticipation or dread of what might lie before me. What were my new classes/courses going to be like? Who were my new teachers and what would they be like? Who were my new classmates? What new and interesting books would I be given to read? How many boring lectures would I fight sleep in? How many papers and exams would I have to struggle through? None of that!
Not going back to school felt so strange. It also put a distance between my friends and me. They were studying, I was working. Staying in the permanent workforce was a vastly different world from school. This was more than a change of season. It was a life change. My routine changed. My perspective on life changed. My priorities changed. I had a different peer group. My awareness of politics changed. Some of my values changed. My attitude and behaviour changed.
After working for 8 months I went back to school; in Germany. That first day of school was unlike any other I had ever experienced. It was in the Spring! Different country, different language, different culture, different values, no friends - only strangers, different educational system, different requirements and different expectations. Most of all, FREEDOM! - no restrictive parents to answer to.
Culture Shock! I felt lost; I discovered that the classical music skills and knowledge I had developed previously were insignificant in comparison to my new fellow students. Music students here came from families that had been professional musicians for many generations. They were immersed in their classical music heritage from day 1 of their lives. I was often asked who in my family had been a musician. No one that I knew of. People asked me where I was from because I spoke German with a strange accent. First time anyone told me that I spoke with an accent. It was an alien world for me, a little overwhelming, quite intimidating, and rather exciting. It was a character building year - not all of it good.
A year and a half later I experienced another unique (to me at least) first day of school. It was my first day at Bible College here in Winnipeg. Another Culture Shock! I felt like an outsider again. No other students in the school could relate to my life experiences. Most of them had never stepped out of the protective walls of their little Mennonite world. I had knowledge that others didn't have. I was also illiterate in subjects that other students thrived in. I had been exposed to life values (some of which I adopted) that many of my fellow students objected to and wanted no part of. Now I was told I spoke English with a bit of a German accent! Another character building year.
There were more first days of school that bore similarities to the above two. Days where the unique experiences I had left me feeling set apart because my Weltanschauung was so different than that of my fellow students. Each of these experiences were challenges that have shaped me.
There are first days of school that I regret. Because of the breakup of my first marriage I missed my children's first school days throughout their Elementary School years and my daughter's Junior High years. I would have liked to have been part of that.
Today is the first day of school for many children and young adults. How many of them are excited? How many of them are filled with dread? How many of them will achieve their hopes and dreams? How many feel like outsiders? How many will strike their own path? How many will just follow the crowd or the path of least resistance? How many will sink into despair? Will somebody be there to catch them and pick them up again? How many parents are excluded from this energized time? How many parents choose to distance themselves from this day? Is anyone marking this significant day with a celebration?
The first day of school signals a new season. What am I going to do with the new season before me?