No matter your color, creed, political affiliation or ethnicity when you hear the phrase “back to school” it elicits an emotion. From the time we can comprehend the concept until we are in our golden years those three words mean something to just about everyone; especially students, teachers and parents. But even for those beyond the educational starting-line that is “back to school”, the expression conjures up some feeling be it past, present or future. Every one of us has had to manage the passage of returning to school for some portion of our lives and later, many need to manage this annual happening with our offspring.
With the beginnings of another school year upon us again I began to think about the feelings that are mustered up when we hear those three little words And so, here is my review of the emotional roller coaster we each ride over the course of our lifetime when we hear that timeless expression.
Age 7: Wonder & Excitement
First grade baby! Are you kidding me? What on earth is better than 1st grade? You have already survived the politics and mind games that you surely confronted in kindergarten. Now it’s time to party. No more naps. No more half days. You have your own little friend posse and you are ready to take it out for a spin. First grade may be the last grade you enter with no real expectations or demands put upon you. Show up, shut up and smile…you’ll get straight ‘As’. Fact.
Age 11: Confusion & Uncertainty
Well, you have now dominated elementary school. You have been to the top of the mountain. King or Queen of that K-5 hill and now it’s time for the next chapter. But, not so fast my friend. It’s not that simple. Not only are you entering into those years with perhaps the largest age bracket of punks, sneaks and (future) criminals, you are in an all-out war with your hormones. For the fellas, they are noticing they are growing hair on more than their heads. What is this? Not to mention your voice sounds like you are the next of kin of Michael J. Fox and Peter Brady. Oh and let’s not forget about your, ah hem, newfound acquaintance with your…nevermind. As for the young ladies, you are meeting two new close “friends” and not sure how you should manage their inauguration. That’s all I really know about girls (back then and now). As for the academics? Spanish? Algebra? More than ONE teacher to deal with? How do I get out of this one? Junior High sucks…on most levels.
Age 14: Fear & Loathing
Congratulations! You have managed the daily minefield that was Junior High School but now it’s time to take off the training wheels. It’s a brave new world. While you almost have your newfound adult form in check, you are now the littlest of tadpoles in the big pond. For the young men, you are getting pounded by the upper classmen; on the field, in the gym, in the hallways, in the parking lot. NO escape. Your only saving grace is there are REAL women here for you to gawk at! Yeowza! No more wearing sweatpants to school. I’ll leave it at that. And for you poor freshmen girls…that is how you are viewed by your elders; ‘girls’. Prepare yourself to be mocked ad nauseum by every single older female you come across. They will judge your clothes, your hair, your shoes, your friends…everything. Even if you are a squeaky clean all-American girl, you will be mocked and probably be rumored to have made out with the janitor, Carl, before Columbus Day. For you early developing 9th grade ladies, I always hated you. Why? Because you were not wasting your time with a silly co-ed freshmen boy like me when the senior captain of the basketball team named ‘Scooter’ has just asked you to the prom during orientation.
Age 18: Hip Hip HOORAY!!!
You made it! Graduated high school. You can vote. In some places you can drink! You have big dreams and ambitions. The world is your oyster. Oh, here is the really good part for the lucky ones; COLLEGE baby! On your own. No more parents and curfews. New friends to meet. Ridiculous theme parties. Fraternities. Tailgates. Awesomeness aplenty. Going ‘back to school’ for the 18 year old is the apex of life…so far. Breathe in that higher educational air, start an ultimate Frisbee game, and chug that beer!
Age 21: Depressed & Scared
Where the hell did college go? What do you mean it’s over? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? What do you mean I am not going ‘back to school’? I need to pay my own bills? What in God’s name is going on? Even for you brainy slicksters that continue on to law, med or grad school, the joke is on you. The school work is harder, the party has ended and, likely, so has your parents’ generosity. For the rest of you, grab a helmet and welcome to the real world. It stinks.
Age 30: Jealousy and Bitterness
You are likely at some mid-level job you hate. You may have gotten married. You may even have a kid or 2 of your own. Life has become just too real to fathom. When you see all those ads for ‘back to school’, you muster up intense feelings of envy and sadness. You can finally appreciate just how awesome school really was compared to the ‘real world’. You contemplate if there is any possible human way to turn back the clock? There isn’t. Put your head down…you are in for a long haul.
Age 40: Hopefulness and Joy
By 40, you probably have a few kiddos of your own running around the school hallways. You have channeled your previous anger and jealousy for the college years into positive feelings of hope and excitement for your children. For many of us, ‘back to school’ is once again awesome…but for totally different reasons. Those summer-time-dependents of yours are, once again, someone else’s problem for six hours a day for the next 10 months. Break out the bubbly!
Age 50: Oh Crap
By 50, you have two overpowering emotions that you have no idea how you will control and manage when ‘back to school’ is mentioned. Number 1, my ‘baby’ is leaving for college and 2, how on God’s green earth am I going to pay for it? In a related story, you are middle aged and gross. BOO!
Age 60: Oh well
The kids are grown up, moved on and no longer your problem; financial or otherwise. ‘Back to school’? Who cares? We are headed for Boca come October anyway.
Age 80: Who’s going back to school?
No really? I can’t hear very well.
In the immortal words of Billy Madison…
“Oh, Back to school, back to school
To prove to Dad I’m not a fool
I’ve got my lunch packed up, my boots tighed tight
I hope I don’t get in a fight
Oh, Back to school, back to school…”
Guest Blogger Frank McCabe can be heard every Friday on 980 WCAP AM Radio. For anyone under the age of 70, run to your nearest Iphone and download TuneIn Radio.