This is the first September in 37 years when I haven’t done ‘back to school’.
That’s bonkers isn’t it?? 37 years!
I was still at college when Bee was born, and she had started school by the time I finished my degree, so it’s been genuinely 37 years of either me or one of my children being in full time education.
Last year was a little different as it was Belle starting college rather than going back to school, but it was the same rituals, the same slow build of anxiety and worries about outfits and timetables and friendships.
Belle has decided college isn’t really her jam, which is totally fine, it’s not for everyone, but it means that my life, for the first time since I was four years old, isn’t held in place by the academic year. The day doesn’t flow from 9am to 3pm, there are no regular school holidays to dread and look forward to in equal measure, it’s just this now. Forever I guess.
It’s kind of scary.
When you’ve had an imposed structure on basically your entire life to date, what do you do when it suddenly isn’t there anymore? Go on cheaper holidays in term time, sure, but where do you get your sense of rhythm from? They say a change is as good as a rest, so if the pace of your life doesn’t change so much anymore, how does the rest bit work?
I’m a big fan of fresh starts and new stationery, and the start of a new term has always felt like an opportunity for me to begin again. You’ve had a break, some time off from the tedium of packed lunches, and you’re ready to polish your shoes and get back to it.
As a child I loved sorting out my pencil case, organising my new pens and starting brand new exercise books. I was made for the routine of school, the timetables and the rules. If I was lucky I might have a new lunchbox – perhaps a flask with one of those flip up spouts that tasted of rank orange squash from day one.
(God, remember that year I found in September that Belle hadn’t emptied her lunchbox from July? Gruesome.)
I could self-impose a school routine, but it’s not really going to be effective unless Belle agrees to leave the house for school hours during term time, and that doesn’t feel likely. I can hardly say to myself ‘hooray! First day of term! House to myself!’ if Belle is sat right there. (I clearly need to point her in the direction of The Money Shed’s post about 10 Amazing Online jobs for Students and then at least she can earn her keep.)
It’s all part of the midlife unravelling I guess, the breaking down of life as I’ve known it all this time, and the rebuilding of it in a different way. A lot has happened in the last couple of years – I’ve bought a house, dragged Belle to the end of school, broken off an engagement, become a cat lady AND a Granny – perhaps it’s no wonder things feel a little irregular sometimes.
Instead of bemoaning the lack of a new school year, perhaps I’ll look on it as an opportunity to reshape my life instead. Maybe this is exactly what I need – a trigger to remind me that every day, week and month can really look exactly how I want it to.
Or maybe I’ll just go to WHSmiths and buy some new pens.