When life becomes unfamiliar, we grow the most. As I recall, few days in my life were more foreign than the first day of school, specifically, the first day of the first grade.
Way back in September 1990, everything was new: my clean white sneakers that had yet to touch the playground dirt, a Trapper Keeper stocked with unmarked loose-leaf paper, a classroom of strange-looking seven year olds just as nervous as I was.
As we begin a new school year, millions of kids feel the same butterflies that come along with change. In hindsight, the first day of school - no matter the grade - offers the exciting prospect of building blocks for a successful adulthood, too soon to come. With a nod to Robert Fulghum's classic bestseller "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," this is what we all learned on day one of school.
Look in the mirror before walking outside
A lifetime of checking our appearance begins on the first day of first grade. From then on, we make sure to give at least half a glance in the mirror before we head out for the day. Hair? Check. Wrinkle-free shirt? Check. Million-dollar smile? Double check.
Learn to let go and be on your own
We tiptoe into the first day of school clutching the hands of our parents, but must ultimately say goodbye and face the challenge alone. From an early age, we understand that, while a support system matters, we have to first rely on ourselves.
"Hi, my name is _____. What's yours?"
The same networking strategy for an after-work happy hour matters in elementary school, too. In a room where you don't know a soul, the best icebreaker has always been a simple and genuine introduction.
A lifetime of recess
We spend hours cooped up at our desks and need time each day to run around and get the blood flowing. Wait, are we talking about the playground at school or the gym after work? Exactly.
Assurance of a hand-written note
On the first day of school, nothing calms the nerves like a hand-written note from mom tucked inside our lunchbox. A quick "you're doing great. I love you!" results in a giant exhale, which reminds us that everything will be okay. Sometimes (all the time), grown-ups need confidence boosters too.
Life at the sound of the bell
First grade officially begins with the inaugural chime of the school bell. As adults, we don't need a school bell to stay on track because that familiar blare is forever etched into our brains. It's like time management before we even know the meaning of the phrase.
Now and then, we have to wait our turn
If our class ventures out of the room, we walk in a single-file line. When we answer the teacher's math problem, we raise our hands and wait to be called. As adults, we then find ourselves (begrudgingly) in line at the DMV, where total disarray is usually the best way to describe this experience. Where did we learn to be so patient? In the single-file line on the first day of school.
Early education in mass transit
When the first day comes to an end, we're ushered into the parking lot to find our designated bright yellow cheese-wagon. At that moment, we have one mission: get on the right bus. Later in life, we obey the same rules as we navigate complex bus routes and elaborate subway systems.
Finally home after a long day, there's nothing better than kicking off our shoes and settling into the couch with something cold to drink.
Sounds like a pretty good way to end our days as adults – with one exception, though: make that drink alcoholic, and make it a double!
What's your favorite memory of the first day of school?
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