Equally as a child and an adult, I have always loved back to school time. As a kid, I loved color coordinating my folder and notebooks, looking through my schedule and getting a fresh start in a new grade. Now, my friends put pictures of their kids in oversize backpack sitting on the front stoop before the first day of class. The mornings get cooler. Buses line up, teachers gear up, parents and kids shift gears. Back to school time is filled with so much hope and promise. We are rested, hopefully, and recommit to learning and growing. It is rewarding, like hitting the refresh button to give life a new try.
I remember, at age twenty-two, having a twelve month calendar for the first time in my life. It felt odd to keep going to work in June and then still in September. Where was the rest? Where was the reboot? You mean I just keep going? No new boss? No new tasks? And so on. So how do we, as adults, find that hope and promise in our calendar? How can we commit to learning without classroom time set aside?
The New York poet Marie Howe, on On Being with Krista Tippett, talked about starting to write poetry at age thirty. She had just been through a horrible trauma in her life and remembered and clung to the sentiment, “When you are really sad, all you can do is learn something new.”
I am married to a learner. I watch him pick up a new hobby, dive head first into it with curiosity and playfulness of a child. He will never be boring to me. He will never stop growing. New life will always be waiting for him around every bend.
I have a friend who started taking swing dance lessons last winter. He told me, “In Minnesota, we should all make a point of learning something new every year. It fights off the darkness.”
I’m well aware that my able mind and able body are gifts from God to be used and stretched and celebrated. This fall, even without new folders and notebooks to color coordinate, I’m committing to learning anew as an act of faith. The world is our classroom. Happy back to school to us all!