(Note: What I love about today's throwback column is that it was written just after I'd graduated from college. Oh, how far I've come...).
A change is a-brewing? Can you feel it? A cool, crisp breeze billows over what's left of the yellow corn fields. The days are getting shorter and shorter, making way for pink sunsets and clear, starry nights. The once green-leafed trees are sprouting reds and oranges. And I, once again, greet the day at 6 a.m. Ahh, yes, the stillness and idyllic lifestyle of summer is but a distant memory now. Fall is officially here. Life in a college town makes the transition ever so poignant and gives you a bird's-eye view of what is to come. A once-sleepy town has awakened to a bustle of activity, bursting at the seams with energy and livelihood. At its center? Some 25,000 students who will come bright-eyed and ready for the next nine months. But for the first time in what seems like forever, I won't be joining them in ceremoniously cracking open those new textbooks and gleefully opening a new pack of pens. In fact, this is the first time in 19 years that I haven't had the world of education calling my name in late August. And I have to admit, it's a bit jarring.
For as long as I can remember, going back to school was always a big production in my family. My parents were big education supporters. My mom has worked at the same middle school for 12 years. And even though it took him close to 22 years, my father received his bachelor's degree in engineering just two years before he died. Needless to say, school was a big deal in my household. Every year, I looked forward to packing into the family car and making the pilgrimage to Wal-Mart in search of the perfect school supplies. Armed with a list and curiosity, I made my way down the aisles, inhaling the fresh smell of school supplies galore. Four different colored notebooks? Check. Four folders to match said notebooks? Check. A pack of blue pens? Check. A jumbo yellow highlighter? Check. And, most important, a pink backpack? Check. Can you tell I'm a bit fussy when it comes to my supplies? Maybe it was a bit nerdy of me, but I was the sort of girl who had her backpack all ready to go a week before classes actually started. As I neatly tucked in my school treasures, I also was packing away all the memories I had from the summer. It was my way of saying goodbye to my "summer self” and getting in a new frame of mind.
In my family, school wasn't just about learning. No, no -- school was also about goal-setting. What did we want to accomplish that year? As my mother so eloquently told us, "The year is what you make it.” So, naturally, not having school to force me into goal-setting mode has sort of thrown me off balance a bit. It's amazing to think that the life I'd known for close to two decades could somehow just vanish, and in its place is a whole lot of soul-searching. I've learned quickly that the decade known as your '20s is a time for a whole different kind of goal-setting -- maybe even more important than those childhood days of wanting to get As on all the spelling tests. Now, goal-setting for me and my chums has to do with life and realizing the person each wants to become.
What do I want to do for the rest of my life? How do I want to leave my mark on society? I think I'm moving along nicely on the journey. I've decided writing is the life for me. I'm a journalist at heart and have big aspirations of someday living in a penthouse apartment in Manhattan, reading the New York Times while sipping coffee in a corner diner and working tirelessly as a magazine editor. Yes, that is the life I'd like ... someday. But for now, I'm taking my mom's advice and starting with smaller, more manageable goals. Since graduation, I've been working on freelancing. I'm still learning the ropes and haven't had a sale yet, but I've got spunk and determination. We all have goals in life. Whether it's something as simple as making a homemade dinner at least twice a week or something that requires a bit more effort, like becoming the CEO of a corporation. We all have things we're passionate about -- things that make our life worth living. And we all have to work to achieve those goals.
But maybe, like all things in life, the destination isn't as important as the journey. It's the journey that teaches us the most and shows us the greener side of life. Maybe the destination is just a nice perk along the road of life. And the person I want to be? If summer was a lazy cat, rolling around in the sun, finding the perfect, soft pillow for endless sleeping, then fall is a thunderous, roaring lion, full of boundless energy and ready to conquer anything in its path. The lion is the one who sees the importance of the present and is a force to be reckoned with. At least for this year, I'm determined to be the lion.
(Note: Speaking of school supplies, look for a very special giveaway in the coming weeks).
[Photos via We Heart It]