Three constants in the world: death, taxes, and the fact that back-to-school season sucks. For kids, for teachers, for parents, even for bachelors with no remaining ties to a school system. There’s a sinking feeling when you start hearing those first commercials on the radio or television. “Back to school sales!” “Get stocked up for the school year!” Terrible, horrible, no good very bad stuff like that.
When I was a kid, and, later on, an educator, hearing commercials like those would mark the death of the Summer. Or maybe not the death. The grim diagnosis, where the doctor just put a number on how much time you have left. Three weeks. Two weeks. Whenever that first back-to-school Walgreen’s commercial first strikes. “Stock up on your Trapper Keepers and your pencils with our special back-to-school sale!” Suddenly you can very clearly see the end. The tone of your entire summer shifts paradigmly, as if the movie of your vacation just switched genres from a buddy comedy to a courtroom drama.
I call this type of thing “calendaring,” when a period of time, which, heretofore, has felt endless and fresh due to your keeping the end-date vague in your head, is suddenly synchronized with your wall calendar. Now you know exactly where you stand. No more “eh, I basically got about a month left if you round it up.” Once you get calendared, it’s more like: “Oh my, I only have 11 days left?!? What have I been doing?”
It’s the ultimate buzz kill.
Same exact thing goes for educators. It’s one of the many difficult things about being an educator. You have to relive this gruesome moment of summer-murder again and again, year after year. Soon you will have to start stressing out and worrying about how many nightmare kids are going to complement your class roster. Though educators (usually) get to experience the first day of Summer vacation, and this perhaps balances out the back-to-school blues. But it doesn’t feel like it at the time, I can tell you from personal experience.
Parents of small kids might think they actually like the back-to-school season. After all, soon they will be relatively free of the responsibility of figuring out what the hell to do with their kids from 8:00 to 3:00. But these parents must now drag their spawn to Walgreens and Target and Walmart to pick out new stone-washed jeans and Ninja Turtle t-shirts and Trapper Keepers and notebooks and wacky pencils.
Nothing too terrible, I guess, but it’s an annoyance and an expense. And your kids are all nervous and sad, which can probably be depressing. Even so, I’ll give you that parents suffer the least from back-to-school season. But suffer they do.
What about freewheelin’ bachelors? What claim have they on back-to-school suffering? A big one. Back to school season is not just about the school year coming back around. It’s also a signal that the best chunk of the summer is already past—it calendars the summer itself. No more pretending it’s going to continue being summer for “weeks and weeks.” Doctor Death has just given Summer the bad news, and it must now make its peace with its estranged family (the other seasons). Won’t be long now.
What about you, Readers? Do you agree that back-to-school season sucks for everybody? Who doesn’t it suck for? I’m serious. I actually want to know.
This post was inspired by Daily Post’s prompt “August Blues”: As a kid, were you happy or anxious about going back to school? Now that you’re older, how has your attitude toward the end of the summer evolved?
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