SCHOOL DAZE: Thoughts From A Recovering Undercover Overlover...Of School

Ahh...the last long weekend of the summer.

I don't know how your Labour Day weekend was (I hope it was fabulous!), but mine was utterly lovely! I did something I haven't done in a long time, which is a damn shame, actually - I spent the entire weekend in my hometown with my family. Here's where I attempt to explain why it's taken me months to put life on pause and make the western trek from Toronto to London, Ontario to spend the some time in my childhood home, but I won't bother. All I'll say is, this trip was long overdue and very necessary.

One of the highlights of my weekend was visiting my old alma mater, the University of Western Ontario (Go Mustangs!). HomieLoverFriend and I were taking a leisurely drive through London's downtown strip, when I decided to keep heading north on Richmond Street and take a ride around campus. The funny thing is, earlier that day, I had been marveling about the fact that I must now be a "real grown-up" - here it was, Labour Day weekend, and I had no pangs of missing my back-to-school days. I absolutely loved school, so the start of a new year was always an exciting time. Since I've been out of the game, I've suffered a sort of phantom pain around this time of the year. No more back to school shopping. No more conversations with friends about who'll be in which class. No more poring over the book requirements for my Health Sci classes (and the exorbitant amount of money needed to purchase them). No more excitement about joining student clubs and attending Homecoming parties. No more enjoying the dog days of summer on a beautiful campus with my friends, wondering what the next year would bring.

Out of all of my educational phases, university was definitely my favourite. The University of Western Ontario was a special place where I met some of my greatest friends, and made some of my life's best memories. As I drove through campus, all those memories came flooding back and I had to stop for a minute in my favourite parking lot (Mustangs - remember the Social Sci lot where we'd get a friend to lift the entrance bar and park for free?) to let it all sink in. A few days ago, I was having a conversation with the Mister and I told him "Sometimes I feel like I was more 'together' back when I was 19 versus now at 29" - the irony of thinking that thought, then ending up back at the physical spot where I was 10 years ago was not lost on me.

I can admit it: at 18/19 when I started university, I was more 'together' in certain aspects. I had a lazer-sharp focus. I knew what I wanted out of life. I knew exactly where I was going and how I was going to get there. My days were fun, but structured - any mixture of class, working my part-time job, club meetings, practicing for shows, and kickin' it with my peoples in UCC or the Nat Sci library. Class syllabuses/syllabi (?) clearly defined the months of September to April - tests, papers, presentations, exams - I knew when everything was happening, and all I had to do was be prepared. The grind of being a good student got to me at times, and soon I couldn't wait to be in the "real world", where everything was undoubtedly a sea of money, great jobs, money, grown-up events, and more money.

At 29, I look back and can't help but smile. My naivete was showing all through my university years, and I didn't even know it. These days, no one has handed me a syllabus to let me know what's happening and when it's goin' down. I don't have the same narrow, singular goal anymore. I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to get there, wherever "there" is. 10 years ago, I thought I had it all figured out, but I didn't realize that there were so many more possibilities out in the "real world". That focus is still there, but instead of being beamed on to one specific target, it's in many places now - similar to when a ray of light hits a prism and fragments, creating a dazzling rainbow effect. As I write this, I realize how different my mindset is from University Bee - but how similar it is to High School Senior Applying To University Bee. Pre-UWO, I had so many questions about the decisions I was making. Where was I going? Was I going to get accepted anywhere? Did I pick the right major? Was I going to fail? Did I know how to succeed? I worked myself into a frenzy of worry right up until the moment that everything worked out. These days, in a period of such transition in my life, I'm feeling that same frenzy - but I know that things will inevitably come together. I have University Bee to thank for that.

For anyone who's reading this and is heading back to school - especially college or university - make the most of your time, and don't take any of it for granted. Take advantage of the fact that you're usually handed the game plan at the beginning of the year, because life isn't always going to have an outline. Know what you have to do, then execute a plan for success. Work hard and play harder - you're there to learn, but learning comes in many forms. Classes are your priority, but expand your mind by getting involved in extra-curriculars. What I learned in class got me to where I am, career-wise - but the entire experience made me who I am. Always remember: the world is yours, so go out and create the kind of world you want to live in!

Are you heading back to school this September? Where are you going and what are you taking? Good luck! Does anyone else out there miss university/college as much as I do? I always wanted to go to Hillman with Whitley and 'em, but UWO was the next best thing :) Any fellow Mustangs reading '83 To Infinity? Holla!

UNACCEPTED: When Natural Hair Is Not The Norm

YEAR FIVE: New Year/New Hair Resolutions