I distinctly remember the first day of Grade 10. The cold morning chill that crept underneath my shirt while I waited for the bus. The unwrinkled, crisp bus pass I flashed with confidence. The indiscernible chatter of nervous teenagers escalating with every stop. High School, to me, is the last stretch of the mandatory race you were signed up for against your will. With each passing grade, you accrue a sense of how to subvert the system and transform it into something that benefits your social cachet. Meeting members of the opposite sex can sometimes become the reason for school. Coincidentally, it’s also a place where you learn how to bounce back from rejection. Of course, our learning environments are cesspools bent on infecting you with the desire to learn. At least the majority of them. Great teachers don’t satisfy; they leave you curious. They capture your imagination and provoke you to be discontent with the status quo. School is that awkwardly magical place where you eventually realize that structure, discipline and hard work aren’t your enemies. Yet, we still hold onto the dream of one day being able to do whatever the hell we want.
Ironically, as a 33-year old, I find myself strangely missing the expectations school used to provide. Those “expectations” motivated me to read books I didn’t want to read, learn confusing mathematical equations I never fully understood, recite Shakespeare with conviction, bake a soufflé, etc. School pushed me to do, see, learn, listen and participate in things I would never have chosen on my own. As an adult, I now have the freedom I longed for. To a large degree, I create my own structure and rhythms. Unfortunately, I’m not as rigorous, challenging or inspiring as the school environments I used to be a part of. I’m a little bit jealous when I see children, posing with their “First Day of School” sign, as if they were going to Disneyland. What they don’t know is that they get to embark on an adventure that will open their eyes to a wider world than they’ve known. (Much much bigger than Disneyland!)
Is it possible that maybe, there might be ways to distill some of the key elements of school into our modern, busy, adult-life?
I’ve recently been inspired by people in my family starting new businesses. Their eyes brim with fear and excitement as they step into the unknown. Forced to learn new skills; they display the same enthusiasm and dedication as a student preparing for a final. For them, like a Kindergarten student, September is the start to this new adventure. Much of their current patterns of life are being shaped by this new demand.
I want that. Call me a sucker for punishment, but I long for structure and discipline. I long to be challenged, prodded and stretched. At this point, I’m not sure what this implies or how it will be manifested. Even though parenthood has introduced me to new challenges and rhythms this past year, I can’t shake the feeling that something is missing. So, in the meantime, I’ll just look at all the new, fresh students stepping onto buses with a little bit of envy.