Back To School: The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Back To School: The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Returning to the classroom wasn't so bad as a kid, but it seems to be a different story nowadays.
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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.

Cover Image Credit: Free Multiplication Games

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject. It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease. The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own. We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time. Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death. However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me. In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident. A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life. I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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4 Things I Wish High School Me Knew

Every day has a purpose.

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People don't give high school enough credit for having the ability to shape your life. It can build you or it can break you and often times there is no in between. As I enter into my senior year of college I have reflected a lot on my college career and how it really has been the best years of my life up to this point, but I know that without a doubt my life would have been so different in I would have known these things as a high schooler.

1. Your life is valuable

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 2:4-7

2. You aren't defined by your singleness. 

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. - Song of Solomon 2:7

4. You aren't going to fit in

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:2

4. Your clothes aren't going to fit forever, don't spend all of your money on them 

Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." - Luke 12:15

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