The Annual First-Day-of-School Jitters

Sing the song. SING IT.

Tonight is a sleepless night for thousands of kids in Frederick County. Because come tomorrow morning, they will once again be subjected to bus rides, bell schedules and homework. Tomorrow is a day of empty notebooks, brand-new sneakers, and shifty homeroom teachers. Tomorrow is the day that can define an entire year—an entire lifetime—for a child.

The first day of a school is a very, very big deal. We’ve all been there. Whether it’s the first day of kindergarten or the first day of senior year, tomorrow will come with butterflies for everyone. Every moment will be seized. Every choice will seem magnified, as if tomorrow’s outfit matters more than the others. Parents will take pictures of the bus stop. New-year-resolutions will be tested. Everyone will start out with good grades. Some kids will come back and go back to the grind as if there had been no three-month break; some will forget how to write their own names. Some will match their old school ID photo; some will walk through the doors as a completely changed individual. Tomorrow, as everyone will be told in their first class, is a fresh start.

But I have some good news for the kids who wrestle with their pillows as they squirm under the pressure of this fresh start: every day is a new day. If you screw up tomorrow, who cares? You have Tuesday, and Wednesday, and 177 days after that, to right it. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try tomorrow, but don’t try so hard that you can’t match that standard for the rest of the year. Be consistent. Tomorrow is a big deal. But so is every other day of your life. There are still twenty-four hours in the first day of school. Relax. Take a deep breath. Put one foot in front of the other.  You’ll have no trouble doing it for the rest of the year, so why make tomorrow such a big deal? Preoccupation with stress only makes stress worse.

With that said, enjoy the challenge. Though it was four years ago, I’ll always remember the first day of my sophomore year. It wasn’t my first day of school, but it was my first day of JROTC. My legs were shaking so badly on my way to formation that I could barely walk straight. It was mind (and body) numbing, but I’ll always remember how hard my heart was pounding—I was put into first squad in my new platoon, and I was legitimately worried that my PC could hear its thumping. That’s the stuff that makes you feel alive. It’s not fear, it’s not mania, it’s… excitement. Energy. Intensity.  And everyone experiences it at least once, even in public school.

So, get excited for tomorrow. Put on your best face, but make it your best face, not someone else’s. Smile for mom when the bus comes. Enjoy the familiar and stare the scary new stuff in the face. Pump yourself up, but don’t over-inflate, because the school year is a long haul. You will screw something up tomorrow. You’ll forget a name, spill a drink, or accidentally go into the boy’s bathroom (true story, and I have no shame admitting it. First grade was an adventure). It’s okay. Seniors: you should be good at the “school” thing by now. Help the nervous kids. Be the nice one in the hall. Don’t start your victory march with a bunch of mud-slinging.

Tomorrow, as with every other day, you have one mission and one mission only: learn something.

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