At this time of year, I always get a hankering for some Laurentian pencil crayons, a set of Mr. Sketch markers, a fleece-lined corduroy jacket, a Charlie’s Angels lunchbox, and a pair of Tretorns. I love Back to School.
Even in those years between being in school myself and sending my children off to school, I adored September. As a child, there was something so hopeful about having a whole year of school stretching out before me. I looked forward not only to breaking out new school supplies but to reconnecting with friends, meeting new teachers, and learning new subjects (is there anything lovelier than a stack of unread novels?)
Of course, just because I am not going back to school this year does not mean that I cannot capture the excitement of learning. Here are some of the things I love doing to celebrate September:
Find a class. Many colleges and universities offer non-credit adult education classes in everything from art history to web design to Shakespeare to conversational Spanish. There is nothing lovelier than walking to class in the fall, cradling a latte, and carrying a book-filled leather satchel with the knowledge that there will be no final exam.
Find a new author. As author Jane Hamilton advised, “It is books that are the key to the wide world; if you can’t do anything else, read all that you can.” While I’m a voracious reader, rarely do I pick up a book these days that is not a novel about class wars on the Upper East Side, or suburban dysfunction. I remember the excitement of discovering wonderful books I’ve never have picked up had they not been assigned in school: Moonfleet, The Chrysalids, The Stone Angel, Who Has Seen the Wind. Now, I try to read at least one book that is a little different each year. I’m currently loving Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by LA-based psychotherapist and author Lori Gottlieb. It’s terrific so far. I’m also diving into Mary Magdalene Revealed by Meggan Watterson.
Find an interesting elective. Between graduation and parenthood, I got very involved in TIFF. Some years I volunteered, other years I saw saw a four or five films a day. Whether I was watching a film from Vietnam or chatting with Julianne Moore (who looks even better in person than on film), I was taken out of my everyday experience. Now, I’m lucky to see one film at TIFF a year, so I’m trying to find other passions. Perhaps this is the year to try painting, to take up rock climbing, to learn German, or to get tickets to the Opera.
Embrace the inner kindergarten student. While this activity might qualify me for inclusion in the Big Book of Very Silly People, I find that sitting down with a stack of magazines, some poster board, a pair of scissors and a glue stick and making a vision board is a useful exercise. Many people pepper their vision boards with things they want — yachts, fasts cars, diamond studded bolo ties. I like to focus on the way I want to feel: calm, peaceful, and content (preferably in Paris.)
This month, I plan to slip on a tweed jacket, polish up an apple, and indulge my Back to School state of mind.
*I wrote Bliss Notes as a blog series a decade ago. I thought it would be fun to bring some pieces back from time to time.