I don’t remember at all how I felt when I headed out into the big wide world toward Mrs. Crossen’s Kindergarten class on my first day ever of school. After all, it was a lifetime ago. I couldn’t even tell you what my outfit was; the pictures are long hidden somewhere. I’m sure there were new shiny black patent leather Mary Janes covering white ankle socks on my feet when I stepped out the door. New school shoes were an annual tradition. I do remember the following year when I left many of my friends behind to enter first grade at the Catholic school across the street. The change may have been smoother had it not been for my new classmate Camille, who kicked, screamed and cried for her mother when the nuns tried to get her into the classroom. This went on for a week before we never saw Camille again. Either she switched to a different school, or she is buried underneath the grounds where we held recess.
The next time I started school again was after graduating from that Catholic school. My parents ran out of funds, so they couldn’t send me to private middle or high school. I was plunged back into public school at the dawn of my teen years, perfect bait for all of the seasoned bullies. That year was my puberty hell…glasses, braces, acne and all . The following year in high school, with a class of 527 other freshmen, there was a diverse student body for me to camouflage into. I managed to find my way to graduation without having to commit to nerd, jock, rah (cheerleader) or head (druggie) status. I was a hybrid, a pretty smart kid who got decent grades, played softball and ran track, dabbled occasionally in alcohol and had a lot of school spirit. It suited me.
My next first day was at a community college three months later. I was dazed, since my father had accompanied me to my admissions appointment, and by the time I started, Dad had died suddenly in his sleep. On the way home from that appointment, he tried to talk me out of the “Secretarial Science” program that I had chosen, saying he thought I was much more capable. His words were lost on me then, and as I breezed my way through the boring program, I must’ve found myself, since I was the only one of my many friends to graduate on time with my Associate’s degree.
First day of college to get my Bachelor’s degree came years later when I was working full time and accepted into a non-traditional “college without walls.” My first “class” was an appointment with my mentor, and in the years it took me to finish part time, I did so without classmates.
Fast forward twenty-five years after that graduation. I am fifty-seven years old, and my chosen Masters program starts this week. Pre-Covid I had no plans to ever return to school. However, during the shutdown, my curiosity and burning desire to learn got the better of me and I took a Zoom class on creativity. Midway through the course, our instructor shared with us that he had just been appointed president of a graduate holistic studies school on the East Coast. I was intrigued when I checked out the website. The question was not whether I would end up there, but which program I would take. They all matched my passions for complementary healing modalities.
So decades after I stepped out onto my porch on the way to that big wide world, I begin again. This time to expand my mind and connect with likeminded souls in the area of integrative health and healing. Instead of leaving my house, I will turn on my computer and rather than enter a classroom, I will log into a Zoom room and meet my first instructor and my classmates in the form of a cohort. And unlike when we were young and made fun of the “squares,” now everyone is a square.
Although I don’t remember how I felt on that first day, I am tremendously excited for this new adventure. Best part is, I won’t have to get new shoes. This nature girl will be barefooting it to school.