My nephew, now seven years old, just started Grade Two at a new school.
My sister tells us that for the first week or two he was like a little lost soul, hanging friendlessly around the edges of things – a vision that had the rest of us scrambling to set up a family phone conference, so we could give him a pep talk.
Don’t wait for them to talk to you, we advised him. Say hello first. They’re probably just as shy as you.
And then it was my turn to go back to school – somewhere I haven’t been for longer than I care to admit here.
I found myself sitting on a bench, under a tree, on a leafy, green campus, and I thought to myself, “I’ve been here before.”
Maybe it wasn’t the same physical place, but it was definitely the same head-space…the itch to open the shiny new textbook in the bag beside me, the fluttery feeling – half eager, half scared – at the thought of finally taking the plunge and learning exactly how much I still don’t know.
It’s the same heart-space, too. The hesitant smiles between new classmates (oops, colleagues, as they’d like us to refer to each other in this program). Shy offerings of glimpses into past lives. And then your first shared laughter, and the relief of knowing that you’re probably going to get along just fine.
With apologies to Heraclitus, there’s a blessed sameness in life. What you think is a new experience is just the same one you had when you were seven, then again at seventeen, and on and on – for as long as we keep learning.
And so this week I learned that going back to school is just as scary and exciting for a grown-up as it is for a kid.
And I learned that a new box of pencil crayons can still make me smile big.
I learned to stop moaning that I can’t draw, to just put pencil to paper – and surprise myself.
And I learned that a bench under a tree at school is still a great place to make a new friend.