Back-to-School Questions from a College Grad

August has always been a month of new beginnings for me. My birthday is during the first week, so Leo season brings a sense of renewal and excitement. Up until this past year, I’ve always known August to usher in the back-to-school feelings that get cemented in the cozy routines of September and October.  

My Eurotrip last week was like the adult version of summer break, so upon my return, I felt it appropriate to buy a new planner and outfit for my first day back. I waited for that feeling of the first day of school, but it never came, not until today.

This morning, I watched in awe as my social feeds become inundated with Tar Heel traditions of the first day of class for Carolina students. A never-ending line extending from the Old Well, full of hopeful, dedicated students. Reunions of old roommates celebrating in the Quad. A crowd of freshman buying textbooks in the remodeled Student Stores. I never thought I would miss buying a textbook, but I almost do right now.

I miss the structure, the known knowns of what the next months bring, the camaraderie of gal pals who never intended to study in the library, even though we’ve been hogging a room for hours with untouched textbooks.

To be a student is not just to have a purpose, but a direction for that purpose. The cycle of the school year would bring us back together in a cadence that felt intentional. We might have always been on separate tracks, but we were at least riding at the same speed, toward a similar destination. To experience the same chapter of life with the people I loved most — my brother, my closest friends, my boyfriend — was to know and be known, and with it came adventure and comfort all at once. I long for this in a way that might sound whiny to real adults, but I’ve spent many a homecoming weekend dismissing slurs of nostalgia from alumni clutching Blue Cups close to their chest.

I get it now.

I’m not saying work isn’t fun. Today, my CEO felt inspired to host dance parties in the lobby throughout the day, accompanied by booze and snacks — it was almost like the first day of school here. Except it’s still just Tuesday, and I can’t be hungover tomorrow morning.

For the past two decades, I’ve always had the next steps completely outlined ahead of me. @God, where is the syllabus for adult life? Is this a punishment for procrastinating virtually every school project I ever completed between 1999 and 2016?

If so, that’s really petty. I promise to do the reading if you can just give me a copy of the rubric.