Writing as a 29-year-old adult with a full-time job, I am pleased to no longer be in school. I’ve put in my time (22 consecutive years of class), played the degree game and am happily out of it unscathed. While there is much I do miss about returning to school, I am comfortably enjoying the fruits of my labor. Tonight, I write in a carefree manner, watching my beloved Red Sox and eating Ruffles potato chips. I have no homework and fear not midterms, finals, or font size on long papers. Until I had that diploma in hand, it seemed like every hour of every day meant something was due to someone and they were going to judge me on it; and those judgments seemed like all that mattered toward happiness at the time.
Additionally, starting college, I was really confused about this new thing called a salad bar. There were too many lettuce options. What is kale? And why am I guilted into low-fat raspberry vinaigrette when a solid ranch option sits idly by? And because everything is weighed, how come I am now valuing croutons over my beloved (yet denser) cucumbers?
Yet as the product of two decades of organized schooling, when the air turns crisp here in New England, I’m conditioned to get nostalgic, reminiscing of friends I haven’t seen all summer, now are suddenly back together again like a reunion show of an old sitcom — either slightly chubbier or bearded, or a having a faint British accent from studying abroad. Looking back on my high school days, I don’t miss the slow sauntering of my high school freshman year, or donning a slightly-sideways — or slightly-sideways and backwards — hat in the hallways after classes. I do miss the uniforms and lack of imagination in my clothing options.
Also the saturation of imagination in the culture of the schools I attended from pre-K to 22. There are few places in the world where you can take a chance on a person, course or idea — give it a run around the block, love it or hate it, or fall flat on your face exploring it. Someone will be there to pick you up and, assuredly, you will be there for someone too. In the air is reinvention and growth; you have the opportunity every day for renewal, change, hope and new beginnings.
As my Ruffles bag becomes lighter, metabolism slower, and your patience thinner, perhaps you’re starting to wonder why this piece is being published in Busted Halo. Where’s the talk of God? Shouldn’t I have mentioned the word “searching” or “seeking” or “spiritual” by now?
Reflection is a funny process. I originally set out to write a piece on how I enjoyed having crucifixes in classrooms; and that while I miss seeing them, I don’t miss school at all. Yet, as the mind or spirit guides one’s process, I find myself penning adoration, nostalgia and fondness for this “thing” I always hated waking up for: school!
I am a product of it; I endured it, knew it was good for me, yet had my issues with it. I took it seriously, took it casually, my parents dragged me to it, and now that I’m older, I find myself having a greater appreciation and respect for it and cannot wait for my kids to experience it.
Sound familiar? I couldn’t help but see parallels. I’ve known many people who have given up on religion and never give it another chance. They’re done with it for whatever reason and want nothing more of it in their life. Maybe this is how you feel and think you might always feel, but I invite you to take a chance. As with my newfound appreciation for school, you’d be amazed at the power of honest and deliberate reflection, whether that takes the form of prayer, journaling or whatever works best.
Religion has its kale. It has its backwards caps, fake British accents, endless midterms and consistent judgment. Yet like school, it is also beautiful and giving, ripe with hope and possibility — of a world in which croutons and cucumbers are equal and personal re-acquaintances with God and Church are as good as reunion shows and ranch dressing.