As summer break comes to a close, kids run frantic down the aisles of Walmart, wondering what to choose amongst the array of colors, sizes, and cartoon figures that line the shelves in front of them. Teenagers dig their backpacks out of their closets, paint their cars with the words “Class of 2017!” and stubbornly attempt to defy time and space as they strive to read four books in two days.

College kids roam around IKEA or stop by at a couple of Goodwills, looking for affordable, but sturdy furniture to place in their new apartments, hoping for the best as they begin a new chapter in their lives.

It’s that time of year again. The summer has reached its peak, and the students have had their rest. It’s time to go back to school.

The idea of back-to-school week has evolved with age. It once meant finally seeing my friends again after weeks apart, shopping for school supplies, choosing my favorite assortment of colorful binders and notebooks, and smiling widely as I introduced myself to my new teachers. I always complained about going back to school as an elementary student, but I don’t know that I ever believed my own dread. Searching through the local Office Depot actually brought me real, undeniable joy.

Now, as a high school senior, back-to-school means back-to-the-routine. Summer was a time without structure, a season of spontaneity at times and boredom at others. It was nice to lay around if I felt like it, watch a movie if I wanted or exercise at any time of the day. The magic and marvel of going back to school disappeared with the years, as all of my friends and I became licensed drivers and could see each other almost whenever we wished, as it became childish and impractical to have that assortment of fun supplies (I personally seem to have dwindled that office supply passion down to two Twist-Erase pencils and a pack of black pens), and the panic to finish summer work took away any wish for me to return to the faces of my teachers.

So sure, routine may be a nice thing to have, but it has yet to outweigh the cons. There are restrictions and deadlines to meet, and all of a sudden my routine has kept me up until 3 a.m. for two days in a row. If only our love of school and the small things — like a Frozen-themed glitter notebook — hadn’t seemed to disappear as we walked through the doors of high school.

But there must be ways in which we find joy during back-to-school season, even if it is not the same as it used to be. Maybe we won’t scream our friends’ names as we see them for the first time in months like we did when we were little, but we can still take joy in smiling at those classmates we love dearly as we pass them in the hallway. And maybe we won’t run down those Walmart aisles and find a pen of every color in existence.

But we might find that one pen that writes so smoothly, we suddenly feel the urge to write for no reason at all. Once again, we might be dreading to turn in work, may hate the last-minute cramming that we brought upon ourselves, but we can still find solace in the fact that at least some teachers care, and that’s why they’re so hard on us.

Every depiction of high school in the media portrays it to be either the best or worst days of our lives. I say that it can hardly be the best days because we still have so much in store for us. This year, my goal is to never allow my high school experience to be those worst days. The time is limited. We can’t stay in high school forever or have a do-over; instead, we must again find the joy in those little things and enjoy those small moments with childlike grins and loud laughter, when just for a second, all seems right in the world.