I can hear my dad cooking eggs at 6:27, the whites just starting to sizzle in the pan. This early morning cooking is an effort to get this school year off on the right foot for my brother, who is starting his junior year of high school. My mom is back at school this week as well, a middle school teacher, and there’s an egg on an English muffin for her as well. My dad comes upstairs to say goodbye to me before he leaves for work. For him, it is just another Tuesday.
We spend 5 hours in the car on a Sunday afternoon. My sister is moving in to her sophomore year dorm and wants the whole family to join in on the experience – whether this is so we can carry boxes or provide some kind of emotional support is unclear. She has 2 days to relax before jumping back into her near-daily Arabic class and the routine of dining halls and academics. Her room is in a very old dorm and has a beautiful window seat leading onto the roof. My brother and I climb out and watch a group of first years taking a Zumba class on the green.
My friends a year younger than me are back on campus in Connecticut already, working at orientation. They send me Snapchats from their new apartments and hang out on the hill while the nice weather lasts. They are starting to write their theses and are the presidents of their a capella groups. They are, for the most part, excited to be back at school.
My friends from my first college are starting on their 5th year Masters programs, settled into second floor apartments that miraculously have laundry in the unit. They have spent the summer working in labs and at day camps, picking up vegetables on Thursdays from the new farmer’s market. Their first day of tuition-free graduate school was last week. Some had two first days as they start their student teaching, a bunch of semi-prepared 22-year-olds entering urban classrooms hoping to teach as much as they learn. I eat tortellini in their kitchen as I watch a friend’s roommate prepare her binder and lesson plans for her new first grade class.
I am not nostalgic for college. I left college a semester early, thrilled to be free of add/drop and toxic roommates and finance bros. This is what I tell myself as I watch those Snapchats from Wesleyan and pick my brother up from high school crew practice and there is some truth in that. Still, nostalgia permeates the afternoon. I am nostalgic for class discussions, for lying on the floor of someone else’s bedroom, for friends living just a few blocks away. I am craving the routines and fresh notebooks of the start of a new year. I miss measuring time in semesters and due dates, not months and rejection letters.
This year’s first day of school means I am back to spending much of the day alone in my parent’s house, cranking out cover letters and trying not get headaches from staring at a screen. I expected to feel a kind of freedom, a feeling of “haha, suckers!” as my friends moved back in to their dorms and thesis carrels. I am so glad for my college experience to be over, but this first not-first day of school feels anticlimactic and empty. It was 90 degrees this week but the leaves are starting to fall. People are driving to work.
It is just another Tuesday.
(My mom bought me a pack of Papermate Flare pens as a not-first day of school gift. I had been lusting over them all summer and am so happy. Pens are wonderful.)