Some Advice for the First Day of School

Ah, school. It’s been about 2 years since I last had a “first day of,” and while I miss shopping for supplies and getting my things ready (and reading my syllabi over and over – in my college years), I can safely say that I’m pretty happy to be skipping out on this one. I can still remember the anxiety deep in the pit of my stomach as I got ready the previous night for what would be the longest day of the yea, never knowing quite what to expect on a first day.

My first day of kindergarten I went in blindly, and naively, as I had been dying to start school already. My mother took me to school that first morning at Charles R. Hadley Elementary School and dropped me off inside of Mrs. Santamaria’s class. I had a book bag and a lunch box full of home made goodies and a combined feeling of excitement and nerves that I would grow to loathe far past adolescence. When my mom told me she was leaving, I think I started to cry. But then I calmed down and she left and I sat at this enormous round table, silently waiting to see what would happen next. I remember a little boy with straight black hair wound up sitting at the table with me. He became my first male friend ever – Briegle Leiva, and his mom and my mom would end up being friends for many years after. Mrs. Santamaria was a large, pale woman with black hair and glasses not unlike those my grandmother wore – thick and squared. She had a serious face, and from what I recall, she was a very serious kindergarten teacher. I wish then that I had known how quickly time would pass, so I wouldn’t have been such a nervous little wreck.

Fast forward to my first day of high school, where I spent half of my lunch period wandering around looking for ANY friendly face, and the 2nd half hiding in a bathroom stall thinking “Why the hell am I here?!”, and I wish then that i’d known that the first day truly does not always dictate how the rest of your time in this new school will go. And when I think back to my first day of college, where I was completely enamored by the ability to select (at least a few) classes I sincerely had an interest in, and where I was actually feeling engaged for once in classroom discussions, all I wish I could tell myself is – hold on to that feeling! Hold on to it, or you’ll really fuck up after a while and slacking won’t get you anywhere.

So much learning goes on in that first day, but it’s rarely about what you’ll be learning the rest of the year. The first day of school prepares you for the first day of everything else in your life: first day of camp, first day on the job, first dates, first day of being a parent (at least I hope that last one is right – i’ll be finding out myself come early next year!) Here’s what two decades of “first days of school” have taught me:

Try and get a good night’s sleep, or at least mentally prepare yourself for being utterly exhausted. You’ll need this energy (or imagined energy) to make it through your whole day because it will very likely feel eternal. You don’t want to look like shit on your first day (you never know who you might meet and you want to make a decent first impression), and more importantly – you want to be on point. This means being prepared to answer questions when asked, even if you have to pull an answer out of your ass. This means being prepared to problem solve: did you forget lunch money and are wondering how you’ll be eating today? Or maybe you tore your jeans somehow and have to figure out how to hide it from the world? Did you lose your schedule and have no idea where to go next? Making sure your brain is at least mildly alert will air in your ability to figure this stuff out and simplify your life. Plus, you don’t want to be the kid passed out on their desk waking up covered in drool. Never a pretty sight.

Be prepared! It’s never good to leave your house without your books, without paper and pencil (or pen, as you get older). Make sure to copy your schedule down onto another place in case you misplace the first copy. Have your P.E. uniform if you’re going to need it so you don’t get stuck doing laps in a skirt on a windy day. Bring some cash with you for anything and everything. Charge all your batteries (cellphone, laptop – for those in higher learning) so you’re not battling 3 other people for the seats closest to the wall jack. Bring a sweater or jacket (in case you get cold easily). Bring a snack (you never know when hunger will strike and your grumbling stomach will catch the attention of those around you). Bring whatever you think will ease your way into the day. Always a good rule of thumb.

Pick a spot, or two, or three – and never too far from the action. For whatever reason, humans are definitely creatures of habit. You want to make sure you pick spots to sit in, eat at, and hang out at that you’re going to enjoy. Some prefer sitting at the front of the class, others like to blend in, and then others prefer the back. Honestly, don’t sit at the back of the class. Even if you think you have incredible discipline, you’re going to miss out on things. You won’t hear as well or see as well and you’ll be more prone to distraction. Worse still, you’ll be in the company of others who want to constantly be distracted, and they’ll take you down with them. If you really want to learn, and even if you think you already know everything, you’ll do better if you’re in the thick of it. Class is much more boring when you don’t participate. Save the back of the class of a special occasion – you have a terrible headache that day and can’t focus or your significant other broke your heart and you need a day off from the world. That’s completely fine. Just don’t make it a habit, because it’s a hard one to break. Additionally, try to pick social areas to eat lunch at and hang out in. You never know what friendships might form over time. Sitting all alone in a corner might get you piece of mind, but it will make life much lonelier and in this world, it often boils down to “who you know” to get ahead. But don’t fret if you don’t find your spot on the first day, sometimes it takes a couple of tries before an area sticks.

Push yourself to be social. The first day is the absolute best day to meet people. You think you’re freaked out and nervous? Think about how everyone else around you must feel! Even when people exude a calm and collected demeanor, oftentimes it just means they’re better at hiding their anxieties. The first day, many people are just looking for someone friendly to talk to. Most of my friendships throughout school were formedĀ  on the first day. It’s the best time to just make general chit chat: What do you think of this class so far? What other classes are you taking? Are you new to this school? Hell, sometimes it’s even good to lie: Do you have a pen I can borrow? can always lead to more sentences being exchanged, and perhaps eventually a smile, and an exchange of names. (But of course, since you remembered to Be Prepared, you probably don’t really need that pen. On the flip side, being prepared might lead to someone else asking you and you’ll get to be the supplier and hero of the first day!) And like I said before, much of your life will be dictated by “who you know,” so use your best judgement and get to socializing!

Be positive. Maybe that sounds a little hokey, but sometimes all you need is to reassure yourself that all will be well. No matter what happens, try to look on the bright side. Keeping a positive attitude under even the worst circumstances will speed up the time at least a little bit, and you might even rub off on those around you. Smiling (as long as you’re not being overly creepy about it) is always a good start.

Jot down notes throughout the day. Keep a little notebook or piece of paper on hand with important info that might save you for the rest of the year. In this day and age, maybe just “text it to yourself” works just as well. Maybe it’s knowing which lunch line always has the best cookies. Or writing down the name of the kid that let you borrow a sheet of paper (you can always return the favor later). Or maybe it’s the name of a book your professor mentioned might be helpful with the midterm (of course they tell you it’s not required reading, but every little bit helps!) If you’re bad with directions, remember to write down landmarks to help you get to your class (it’s in the building next to the library!), or write yourself a note reminding yourself to get a campus map. Anything that will help you later down the road is worth noting.

And finally – relax. It’s just the first day. Some of us get easy first days and others of us are bombarded with shit that makes us want to run for the hills never to want to return. But we still have to go back the next day. While the first day may dictate how some things will go for the rest of the year, it won’t really dictate all of it. Some of you will change classes. Others will make different friends down the line, working on group projects, or meeting friends of other friends. You might start off intimidated by the course load and later surprise yourself at how you rose to the challenge. Maybe you get lost on the first day but end up a tour guide for your campus to help out the newbs that come after you. The thing is – things change. They always do. So while you want to make the absolute best of your first day, don’t sweat it if you hit a couple of snags. It’s normal. Eventually you’ll reach a point where the first day just seems like a far and distant memory. You’ll graduate. You’ll move on. And maybe someday, you’ll write a list just like this one for the next generation.

 
Good luck to those of you battling it out in the trenches of the First Day of School! Learn lots and have fun!

8 Ways To Stop Missing Someone (That Probably Still Won’t Work)

Today, I woke up missing someone. It’s not something that’s easy for me to admit, but it’s true, and I gotta say, it absolutely sucks. There is nothing nice about missing someone. Whether it’s your best friend, a pet, a significant other, a relative, the greatest conversationalist you’ve ever waxed poetic with, or just some of the best sex of your life (hah! just…), it’s not a pleasant experience. You’ll know you miss this individual (human or otherwise) once you begin experiencing the following symptoms:

– Sudden loss or gain in appetite. This would depend on whether or not you’re a stress eater.

– Lethargy. You might not feel like doing anything but moping and thinking about said MIA individual.

– A feeling like you’ve been punched in the stomach. It’s there. Like an anvil resting uncomfortably atop your torso as you lie on your back wondering how exactly an anvil appeared in the first place. Confusing and painful and genuinely unpleasant. Yeah, you’re basically fucked.

I’m currently at the mercy of all three symptoms, and have thus been attempting to alleviate my symptoms via most if not all of the following. Some of these have worked momentarily. I invite you to try them and if they work, well then won’t that be nice? And if they don’t, well, misery does love company. You and I should chat about how we’ve been suckered into this highly inconvenient emotion.

Without further ado, here’s 8 ways to avoid thinking about or completely stop missing someone:

1. Hang out with friends.

With fellow friends, posing around the pool table, ignoring our thoughts.

This is why friends exist. They are the main go-to persons in a crises. Whatever you do, don’t be alone. Being alone allows you enough time to make poor “I Miss You” choices, like sending inappropriate text messages, updating your Facebook status with enough mopey songs to cause the majority of people to “Hide” all your posts, and possibly huffing paint. Or maybe markers. Or white-out. Regardless, it’s not good to be alone with all those thoughts. Harness that energy into hanging out with people who might be able to relate. At the very least, you’ll think about Said-Missed-Individual a smidge less. Just a smidge.

2. Watch television/movies/Netflix.

If Workaholics doens't do it for you, I don't know what will.

But make sure it’s funny. I currently recommend Workaholics and Portlandia for your viewing pleasure. If you’re bummed about getting the shit end of the “I Miss You” stick, it’s probably best to go with comedies. You might, however, be a bit of a masochist like I am. If that’s the case, watch some really depressing shit. Dancer in the Dark is good for this. Biutiful is also on that list. Grey’s Anatomy is my personal guilty definitely-gonna-make-me-cry pleasure show. Seriously, you’ll know what works for you because your instincts will immediately guide you. Maybe you’re like me and you’ll have an enlightening moment watching Shannen Doherty tear Jason Lee a new asshole in Mall Rats, a moment that makes you realize you might not even need to miss what you thought you were missing in the first place.

3. Go for a drive (or a walk, train ride, etc).

If you’re lucky, you won’t run into massive traffic and you’ll get to enjoy a fair amount of pavement ahead of you. This is one of my preferred methods of dealing with heart ache of any kind. Get in the car, put on some good tunes, and zone out as the world passes you by. In fact, if the I-Miss-You-itis is that bad, I can even enjoy being stuck in traffic, watching snails and other slow maneuvering creatures dart past you while you wonder what it’s like to be that woman in the red mini van or that man in the black jag to your left. It’s like that REM video, “Everybody Hurts.” Or maybe it’s more like that Daria episode where they make fun of that video. Anyway, you should go drive. Or walk. Or take the bus. Or a train. Or just find a way to keep moving. Your emotions would love nothing better than to catch up with you the minute you finally decide to sit still. Don’t give them the chance!

4. Listen to music.

Every emotion we’ve ever felt or can ever feel can be sufficiently summed up in a song. Maybe you miss a place you’ve recently visited. There’s a song for that. Or a lady you left behind in those old country roads? A song for that too. Honestly, whether it’s your mother, your uncle’s dead husband, your best friend’s pet, or your old dance teacher that you miss, there is likely to be a song for it if you look hard enough. And when all else fails, listen to something happy and/or stupid and drag yourself out of the funk. Because let’s face it, there’s no use in feeling like crap for more than a few days at a time, if that. Moving right along…

5. Have a drink, or 2, or 20.

Most people probably don’t suggest jumping head first in to your vices. I suppose I’m not really seriously recommending it anyway. But if you’re anything like me, and realizing that many of you probably are, drowning your sorrows in a a few beers or whatever your poison might be isn’t so bad. I wouldn’t recommend anyone go on a heroine binge when they’re unable to see the person they want to see. That just seems a bit excessive. But you’re damn right if you guessed I’m on my 2nd beer of the night as I type this! It would be whiskey, but I let another friend finish my bottle since they were also missing someone. Which brings us back to my first piece of advice about hanging with friends. Misery loves company but miserable drunks certainly love each other way more.

6. Make a drastic change to your appearance. Cut (or dye) your hair. Get a tattoo and/or piercing. Gain or lose a few pounds. Get a nose job. Grow some new body hair. Develop a new use for your elbow. Brand your forehead. Make a change. I’ve basically done all of these in the past on several occasions. Alright, not all (I mean shit, this is obviously my natural nose), but I know that the cutting/dying of hair is a pretty common occurrence especially among girls coming out of recent relationships. I’m not sure what it is about the change of appearance that helps us cope with things, but it does. At the very least, it’s nice to have someone pamper you even a little bit (even if it’s at the Supercuts down the road). Anyway, use this opportunity to always get that tattoo of a unicorn on your butt that your ex never let you get cause they just didn’t see the beauty in it. Fuck it. You only live once. Might as well have fun with your appearance!

7. Clean house.

I rarely clean, but when I do, I suppose it's necessary.

They say cleanliness is next to godliness. I personally don’t have any lofty dreams of being a god, so I usually don’t bother with this. However, desperate times call for desperate measures and if it comes down to it, I am not opposed to zoning out to alphabetizing my books, matching up my socks, or even occasionally doing a few dishes (maybe)! Sometimes what you need is a change of scenery (which brings me to tip #3) but this can also be internalized. Change your atmosphere. Your living space is important and the last thing you need is to be reminded of Mr. or Mrs. I’ll-Call-You-I-Swear or whomever else might be on your missing persons list. Take down the old Polaroids. Donate those old sweaters you stole from his closet. Get rid of those movie and concert tickets from all the times you spent together. Change the locks. Whatever. Change your situation, clean your house, swipe away the memories. In fact, fucking Swiffer the hell out of them.

8. Write a blog post. When all else fails, write a blog post. This is why we’re here as bloggers in the first place, ain’t it? Allow this inability to rest to fuel you with inspiration for writing or whatever other artistic pursuits you might have. Writing this has been semi-cathartic for me. Granted, I’ve looked over at my phone a number of times and wondered things that I shouldn’t wonder about. But at least this killed a good 30-40 minutes of this first day of missing someone. I’ll say that’s a bit of a win.

 

For now, it’s time for this little lady to take another long drive with plenty of music to hopefully distract her from that which she cannot have. Tomorrow is another day!