Danielle P. is a college marketing assistant by day and MFA student by night. She likes good books and bad jokes.
It’s that time of year—students are groaning over blank notebook pages, teachers are readying their lesson plans, parents are packing peanut butter sandwiches, and retailers are flashing advertisements for back-to-school sales. This week marks the end of summer vacation and a return to classes for students nationwide. But what about the rest of us? The graduates? The non-parents? The people who are no longer affiliated with the day-to-day events of the educational system? For those of us who are no longer privy to that most momentous of occasions, The First Day of School, does the first week of September mean nothing more than another flip of the calendar?
Not necessarily. Even if the title “student” no longer applies, being a learner remains a lifelong option. Perhaps all of this post-Labor Day frenzy is a good opportunity to acknowledge what we’ve learned both inside and outside the classroom over the years:
1. Expand your mind.
Do something that allows you to experience new things, or to experience old things in a new way. Travel to London or Venice. Visit a museum, read some Shakespeare, go to a concert, take up oil painting, turn on PBS—whatever you want! Don’t limit yourself.
2. Embrace your inner child.
Remember being a little kid, how robots and dinosaurs were the coolest things ever and you were hungry to know everything about them? You were always asking “why?” Now is as good a time as any to let some of that curiosity back into your life. Google something random or weird or fascinating, just because it interests you. Go to a library, pull a book off the shelf. Browse the card catalog (Remember those? They’re digital now, but they still exist!). Tackle a puzzle. Don’t put off learning for a rainy day. It’s okay to be a little impulsive.
3. Appreciate your surroundings.
The world is big, and your little corner of it is special in its own unique way. Get outside and participate in your environment. Learn about Earth—from its geography to natural disasters. Plant a garden. Take some time to educate yourself about pollution and global warming. Recycle. Understand how your actions make an impact.
4. Take care of yourself.
There is no P.E. class in real life. Your health is up to you. Go for a walk, or play a favorite sport. Pay attention to the food you eat, and why you’re eating it. Remember that indulgence is one thing; overindulgence is another.
5. Remember—you’re not getting a grade for this.
Relax. No red pen needed.
- London: A Social and Cultural History, 1550-1750 by Robert Bucholz and Joseph Ward
- Venice: History of the Floating City by Joanne Ferraro
- New Cambridge Shakespeare Series
- Dinosaurs: A Concise Natural History, Second Edition by David E. Fatovsky and David B. Weishampel
- Games and Mathematics by David Wells
- Physical Geography: Great Systems and Global Environments by William M. Marsh and Martin M. Kaufman
- Eruptions that Shook the World by Clive Oppenheimer
- Air Pollution and Global Warming, 2nd Edition by Mark Z. Jacobson
- Sports Economics by Roger D. Blair
- Ancestral Appetites by Kristen J. Gremillion