Register Monday | June 17 | 2019

Back-to-Schoolhouse Rock

Why we'll never be too cool for school

With the cool September breeze lurking just around the corner, there is a strange mix of eagerness and anxiety in the air. While we're sad to see summer slip through our fingers once again, we do have something good to look forward to-It's "Back to School" time again!

I remember it like it was yesterday-the thrill of hunting for just the right combination of binders, loose-leaf paper and subject dividers. As a kid, I loved deciding which notebook was going to go with which subject, whether I was going with rollerball or ballpoint, what highlighter colors were the easiest on the eyes and which pencil case both complimented my school bag and made a bold fashion statement.

But "Back to School" is so much more than buying a new day planner and the latest version of Bescherelle-for elementary schoolers right up to university students, it signifies a fresh start. After the hot, lazy summer, September is the time to buckle down and get serious. It's also the perfect opportunity to reunite with old friends and explore the possibility of making new ones. And then there's the ultimate pleasure of refreshing one's fall wardrobe, signing up for fun extra-curricular activities and getting a new hairstyle.

"This time around," I used to say to myself at the beginning of each academic year, "I will study hard, get good grades and I will not write my papers the night before the deadline like I usually do." The inner dialogue usually continued with, "I'm going to get into shape, I'm definitely going to talk to that cute boy in my Biology class and I won't act so nervous in front of my French teacher even though he's intimidating and constantly talking about himself in the third person."

Hmm ... come to think of it, not much has changed since then; the cute classmate may be replaced with that charming guy who hangs out at the coffee shop and the mean teacher might be replaced with a tough boss. But despite the obvious similarities, I still love that back-to-school feeling-the nostalgia for a simpler time when all we had to do was study and get good grades while everything else was taken care of. More importantly, I believe that the back-to-school time of year is our collective internalized wakeup call, so ingrained in our psyches that we can't ignore its familiar ring.

Here are a few reasons why "Back to School" can be fun for everyone:

1) Notebooks and Supplies

I still feel a low-tech rush when I buy a new notebook or a shiny pen. "Supplies," however, now means something very different than it did when we were kids. Gone are the days of Hilroy notebooks and the Encyclopedia Britannica-they have been replaced by MacBooks and wireless internet access.

According to an article in The Motley Fool, "The (US) National Retail Federation forecasts that back-to-school spending will hit $17.6 billion this year, up 31 percent from last year's levels. Although that spending is expected to be dominated by electronics and apparel, many retailers hope to score by peddling furniture, decor and gadgets."

So feel free to get that new laptop you've been eyeing all summer. Or, if that's not in your budget, you can splurge on a fancy fountain pen instead. It's all in the spirit of the season.

2) Wardrobe Change

From new kicks to layered tops, back-to-school fashion fever is everywhere. It's still relatively hot outside, but I've already started rediscovering my fall wardrobe. I've also decided that a little replenishing is in order for the fall/winter season. It's not that I want summer to be over; it's just that fall clothing is so cozy. And the thrill of finding back-to- school deals is just too much to resist.

Remember when, back in the day, we all had that nervous butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling before the first day of school? Remember trying to piece together that perfectly accessorized, colour-coordinated (but not too colour-coordinated) back-to-school outfit? That compulsion will never die. We will continue to flock to the Gap, H&M and Zara, like birds flying south for the winter.

I have a friend who starts planning her fall wardrobe in July. Now in her mid-thirties, she still wants to be ahead of the game and look cooler than all the other kids in class.

3) One Year Older, One Year Wiser

The older kids in school always seemed so much more sophisticated. Looking back, "older" could mean fifteen, thirteen or as young as twelve, depending on your status in the academic hierarchy. Back then, thirty was ancient-even a pretty twenty-six-year-old art teacher seemed like a hag. Oh, how times have changed. I'd even give up my Wonder Woman lunch box to be twenty-six again.

We now are actually older and more refined (relatively speaking). We've traded in our boring textbooks for juicy novels, we've graduated from passing notes in class to texting our friends on cell phones and we've switched from After-School Specials to reality TV. As we get older, our activities, relationships, interests and responsibilities are, for the most part, self-motivated.

The only problem with "Back to School" is that the excitement wears off too quickly. Sooner or later your shiny, happy kaleidoscope of pretty binders and corduroy slacks becomes old and worn-out. Reality sets in the moment you get caught skipping a class, the instant you fail an exam or the second some kid makes fun of you because you are wearing white after Labor Day. Back to School is indeed a blank slate, but the rest of the year can be messy.

The funny thing is that each and every year, no matter how old we are, we expect things to be different. Live and learn, I guess.