The last celebration
I am a nursing student. I decided to return to university to get my Baccalaureate of Nursing at the age of 39.
As a child, I was that kid who bugged her mother from the beginning of August until that first day of school in September, wanting to know, "How much longer? When do I start again?" I was the little girl who giggled her way through the aisles where the school supplies were sold, begging for new pencils, "Not the old ones that are in my pencil case from last year!" On the first day of school, I was up as the first chirp echoed in the backyard, the sky barely yet awash in its morning glow.
When I started university that September following high school graduation, those same friendly butterflies from my youth accompanied me, flitting inside my stomach to a beat so gentle that I smiled the entire time I walked to my first class. I know this because another student stopped me on my way, and said, "You must be an angel fallen from the sky because the glow from your smile is blinding." Obviously a pick-up line, but one I never forgot because my cheeks were tight from my lips pulling towards my earlobes. The "back to school" smells of dried leaves, crisp autumn air, and dewdrops filled my nostrils with welcome familiarity.
Returning to university as an adult - a grown woman with children, responsibilities, bills, a mortgage - although I had never forgotten the joy I always experienced those first days of school during my youth, I was not prepared for the pleasurable assault to my 39 year old senses. My very first day back, crossing the campus, looking for the building where my first class in over 20 years would be held, my heart felt as though it was going to explode with a loud bang from my sternum from the sheer amount of happiness it held. My smile was as wide as it had been on that first day 20 years prior when a stranger had compared me to an angel. Regrettably at 39, a big toothy grin is not viewed as ethereal, but nevertheless, my joy was obvious.
Next week as I walk onto the campus on my first day back to classes, I will be doing it for the last time. This September marks my last "first day of school."
Although I am excited to begin my career as a nurse, my pleasure as I will be greeting my classmates, discussing how "We're on the homestretch!" will be bittersweet. Because although a pay check will be putting a smile on my face next September, those feelings of jubilation, anticipation, and familiarity at crunching through dried leaves on the sidewalk; the smells of autumn whirling around me; the sense that every "first day" is a fresh start and a new day, will be a memory of the past.