The whole world apart from me is going back to school and I miss it

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.

Donkey Sanctuary

No special relevance to this picture of Bee and Belle, I just love it. ‘Welcome to this special documentary about donkeys, over to you Bee.’

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.




  1. Lisbeth
    2 September, 2019 / 12:14 pm

    Aw, I hadn’t thought of it before but I would also feel sad once my years are not academic years… You have put your finger on that nice optimism about a ‘new start’ which sort of alleviates the sadness of summer’s end. Also just mumbling about ‘academic’ anything makes me sound as though I’m not just a bumbling middle-aged housewife but actually have some connection to intellectuals or students! Sigh…

    • Jo Middleton
      3 September, 2019 / 9:38 am

      There’s just something about the school year and the regular changes, that break things up a bit. Without them it feels a bit ‘um… this is it then all year round??’

  2. 2 September, 2019 / 12:51 pm

    Freedom can be liberating or lifesucking, definitely great for a reshape of your life and routine. Beware, it’s so easy to get sucked into the million distractions that surround us. Sometimes having that built in structure is neccessary but if you are a planner more than a procrastinator I’m sure you’ll love and treasure your new found freedom. Good luck.

    • Jo Middleton
      3 September, 2019 / 9:39 am

      I’ve been self-employed for ten years so definitely good at staying focussed when I need to. It does feel a bit odd though work wise, because I get things done when I want, in my own time, sometimes I feel worried that it’s NOT taking over my life more, like I’m missing something or not working as hard as I should be!

  3. 2 September, 2019 / 1:20 pm

    I totally get this post! While my youngest has gone off to college, she is four hours away, after getting kids up and out the door to school, on the school calendar and rhythm since 1994. Yes, go buy yourself some new pens and a new notebook. I think I may just!

    • Jo Middleton
      3 September, 2019 / 9:40 am

      It’s such a long time isn’t it? I feel properly institutionalised! Maybe I’ll get the whiteboard and coloured pens out :-D

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