It’s a beautiful day in New Jersey. The sun is shining, the trees are in bloom, and class starts tomorrow.
The first day of school is almost always a nostalgic time for me. It’s a time when I reflect back upon my life as marked by first days of school and what those past times meant to me. Let’s take a journey, shall we? A jaunt through the first-day-of-school hall of all things sundry. I’ll start where my memory bank begins…. Third Grade.
Third Grade: There were definitely first days of school before this, but I certainly don’t remember them. I’m sure they involved side-ponytails and leg-warmers… by the third grade, I was in my first rebellious stage. I had chopped all my hair off just to see what it would be like to have short hair and wore a cute little flower-print children’s-suit-type-thing (the professor-geek gene kicked in early for me). There are pictures of me and my siblings on the front lawn. I was worried that my pencil sharpener wouldn’t be fancy enough because I couldn’t find a Lisa Frank one like all the other girls had…
Fourth Grade: Officially a “big kid” at the elementary school, I was still trying to figure out where I stood in the social pecking order. My dad had read me The Hobbit for the first time over the summer and I just thought it was the greatest thing ever. That should have been my first clue…
Fifth Grade: Last year of elementary school, I was beginning to kiss my childhood of one-classroom-all-day and cubbies-for-your-things goodbye. I looked forward to the Whale Watch, a yearly trip that the fifth graders got to take to Cape Cod as a scientific expedition of the utmost importance. I was second-tallest in the class and they told me that I would be six feet tall when I was done growing. I prayed with all of my already-agnostic heart that this wasn’t going to happen because I was enough of a freak as it was and did whatever God existed really have to punish me with being inhumanly tall as well? Social pecking order established, I knew that I would always sit at the table in the corner with the Dungeons and Dragons nerds. This realization was horrifying.
Sixth Grade: Middle School. The big M. A new campus. A campus! New people. Different classes every period. Lockers. Maybe a chance to meet (gasp!) boys! I wore a pink performance fleece vest from Old Navy and acted as grown-up and cool as I could. This was not very cool at all as my crowning accomplishment was having read The Lord of the Rings by myself over the summer. My favorite books were Star Wars novellas for young adults. I still sat at the geek table.
Seventh Grade: My brief goth phase started around here. I wore all black and jeans big enough for a person twice my size. Having finally begun to accept that geekiness was probably a lot cooler than I had previously thought, I did the only thing I could do to compound my geekiness: I joined the band.
Eight Grade: The Big Cheese at middle school as this was my last year there, I walked into school feeling like I owned the place. I had landed a leading role in the musical the year before, so clearly my path this year was lain with stardom.
Ninth Grade: First day of high school. I wore a black trench coat to cement my image as a tough tomboy. Obviously this was when real life started, all the movies said so…
Tenth Grade: First day of new high school. Old one didn’t work out so well. Had moved to New York City to begin my acting career and attend the Professional Performing Arts High School. Walked in nervous but smooth and confident. Clearly having survived one year of a prep school in richville had prepared me for some inner-city school of performing arts awesomeness. Wrote my first critical essay on Shakespeare over the summer and was set to turn it in that day. It was entitled Romeo and Juliet: An Enaction of Murphy’s Law. This was three days before 9/11.
Eleventh Grade: Knowing that things were about to get serious, I put my game face on to head in for day one of what turned out to be the best year of my high school career. All my friends were Seniors. This was our last year together. I was ready to hit starbucks hard and the SATs harder. I was ready to visit colleges (though I still wasn’t certain whether I was going for a degree in Computer Science or Theatre).
Twelfth Grade: Here it was. The beginnings of real life, the end of an era, and this year just couldn’t go by fast enough for me. Even on day one I knew that. As the year progressed, I became VP of the Senior Class and Salutatorian. The girl who was the President was also the Valedictorian. If I had found some nice quiet way to bump her off I would have been made…
Freshman Year: No really. Here it was. Where real life started. All the movies said so. Started NYU with a self-made joint major in Computer Science and Theatre.
Sophomore Year: Having moved off campus and into my very own grown-up one-bedroom apartment that I shared with two other girls, clearly I was ready for anything that college could throw at me. What I wasn’t expecting was a teacher/mentor who would change my outlook on life, the universe, and everything. That summer I had spent training with John Basil at the American Globe Theatre. I remained with John for two years, and that is where the things I saw at Shakespeare & Company cemented themselves in my own Actor’s Brain. A love affair had begun… nevermind that it was with a man dead for nearly four hundred years. Changed my major to Elizabethan Theatre and shifted Comp Sci to a minor.
Junior Year: So close… so close I can taste it…. When is real life going to begin already?
Senior Year: Actually whipped through this in six months, and I knew that going in. Was just there to fulfill the last of those pesky credits then I was out, see ya, goodbye. After that, real life would start, right?
Time Off: Let’s just refer to this amorphous black space as a black hole. Interesting things happened to me, I was back in training at Shakespeare & Company, but I wasn’t really in my element… Real life hit me like a ton of bricks and I wasn’t nearly prepared to catch it.
MA; Year One: FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! Remember, you may not have been an English major in undergrad, but you have things to add to the conversation due to your wide array of outside experiences and your point of view is utterly different and valued and… aw hell, you just don’t know what you’re talking about. Sit down, be quiet, and let the theorists blather for a bit until you can figure out what it is that you’re supposed to be accomplishing here. Are you sure you signed up for the right degree?
….and today. Well, tomorrow I suppose. I’m going to wear whatever’s clean because I haven’t done laundry in far too long. I’m worried about getting into a PhD program and whether I can get a paper published this year. I’m looking forward to a couple upcoming conferences and acting as fight director at the theatre again. I’m sitting at the geek’s table, but that’s not saying much because everyone else here is too.
And you know what? I’m feeling better than I ever have before…
…though I can’t account for first and second grade. Maybe those were blissful, heavenly years that put this one to shame.