Scratching the Itch

Aww, September – the month that marks the beginning of a new academic year for both eager and not so eager students. The atmosphere is delightfully electric with anticipation and, in some instances, solemn trepidation. With a simple turn of a calendar page days go from sun-kissed and carefree to chilly and routine. God, I love this time of year.

I didn’t always look forward to September; in fact I dreaded its existence for most of my childhood. It wasn’t until I was in teacher’s college that I realized BOTH students and teachers held welled up dismay to returning to the bulletin board laden hallways of educational institutions. I distinctly remember a professor of mine making an off handed comment that he never knew a teacher who slept well on the eve of the first day of school. With anticipation also comes dread and worry; an apprehension I fully appreciate now.

As I walked across my city’s university campus today, it was clear that, without looking at the date, September had arrived. The enticing pictures in the overly distributed campus recruitment pamphlets had literally sprung to life before my eyes. Between dodging mildly bewildered first year students as they buried their noses in campus maps and the senses stinging aroma of fresh paint, there was a noticeable buzz of excitement in the air. The campus squirrels even seemed to be preparing for the incoming wave of crowded sidewalks as they carefully staked out newly procured garbage cans and redesigned outdoor patios. The invisible folly of stress and anxiousness that normally encapsulates campus life is temporarily put on hold this time of year and replaced with plenty of smiles, heart felt laughs, a few tears, and a bounty of hopes for a bright and rewarding semester ahead. Forget January 1st I say, the day after Labour Day is the best time to make personal promises and stout resolutions. It’s a wonderful time to channel the energy of a summer well spent and approach the autumn equinox with a fresh and positive attitude. September truly marks a season of change and prosperity in my books.

When I reflect on going back to school my mind always seems to land on that Staples office supply commercial from a few years ago. You’ve likely seen it – the one where the dad is delightfully riding the back of a shopping cart, merrily putting an assortment of required classroom items in it, all while his two less then enthused children death walk their way behind him. In the background “the most wonderful time of the year” plays in sweet melody. That commercial makes me laugh every time I see it. As a former camp counselor, I can fully attest to the fact that parents really do react that way to the end of summer – and their kids cry more at the end of camp then they did anytime throughout the previous two and a half months. Que sera sera.

As I’ve mentioned, I was never the kid who looked forward to going back to school. In fact, I dreaded the entire prospect of education and “forced” learning until I was well into my twenties. Then, for whatever reason, something clicked. Now, despite sitting on the door step of middle age, I’m finding myself missing shopping for backpacks, pencils, and binders. I pine for the smell of plastic pencil cases. I yearn for the joy that was organizing my locker; for having to relearn my combination. I crave the sound a new book makes when you open it for the first time. Even the slight surprise at discovering how many hidden pockets a new backpack has left me in a state of longing.

Cue the “itch” – otherwise known as my unrelenting and ongoing pattern of going back to school. Turns out, as fate would have it, I love being educated. I love learning; I love challenging myself. I love discovering things I never knew before – I simply can’t get enough. While I don’t think my back to school “itch” has ever fully left me, every two or three years it inevitably turns into a burning petition of sorts. I’ve managed to track it back to my completion of teacher’s college in 2006. In spite of the fact that I wasn’t exactly a stellar undergraduate student, I learned to like teacher’s college (is that a pun?). I was finally in a program that was both mentally stimulating and emotionally rewarding and, despite the infuriatingly never-ending group work and tirelessly detailed compilation of lessons plans, I absolutely treasured (almost) every minute of the experience. After I graduated as a licensed teacher I went out into the “real” world of work (not in teaching, but that’s a whole other story) and the itch to go back to school soon became overwhelming. I’ve chalked its origin up to the encouragement of several of my professors that I should go on to complete a Master’s in Education, a consideration that, unsurprisingly, I just couldn’t shake. So, two years after leaving university for what I thought would be the last time, I was once again back among the masses: eagerly awaiting my semester timetable; standing in meandering queues to purchase preposterously expensive textbooks; and cheerfully emptying my bank account to pay for the privilege of hearing seasoned professors teach me all that they knew. I was blissfully and serenely happy.

Following the completion of my M.Ed. in 2010 I vowed to put myself on an education hiatus. After closing the door on my thesis and subsequent defense, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. I had just completed three years of non-stop thinking and analyzing – two of which also included full time employment. (Apparently I think I’m super woman reincarnated.) I desperately needed a break and I promised myself that I would instead enjoy my working world and social life and forgo, however temporarily, my aspiration to be a lifelong scholar. I made it until the following spring – when I discovered the ease and joy of taking classes online.

And now the trend continues.

As I sit on the threshold of another Labour Day, watching groups of students roll by my office window, I am once again getting the education “itch”. This time, however, I’ve decided to do something I’ve always wanted to do but never thought would have the chance to. I’ve enrolled in some online courses through a very well-known and prestigious university. Over the next two to three years I will study literature and creative writing from masters of the craft. Near the end of the program I am required to travel overseas and complete the final requirements. If all goes according to plan this journey will take place in 2017, the summer I celebrate my 40th year. After much reflection I can’t think of a more fitting way for me to celebrate a milestone birthday. I like to learn. I like to collect random information. I like pencils, books, and teacher’s looks. I guess it’s my innate nature. Is that really so bad?

For those starting another year of school, I wish you much luck. Enjoy your time in the wonderful world of academia. Find a subject that revs your engines and keeps you awake at night. Learn every last thing you can about it. Become an encyclopedia of random facts; your own version of a Rhodes Scholar. Learn what you love and love what you learn. Remember, your brain is like a muscle and it needs to be exercised.

And if thinking is an exercise then you’ll be in the best shape of your life.

Happy September!

Erica 🙂

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