Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Last First Days

Today is the "last" first day of school for my youngest son.

I've never thought to acknowledge the last of the firsts before. My niece tagged me in a Facebook update (she is making my "breakfast special" for her family this morning), as she marked this first day of school for her family of three.

As she acknowledged what this school year was, for each of her children, she mentioned her oldest daughter's "last first day" of school. She even had a picture of her oldest daughter on her first day of school to illustrate how far she has grown.

Have I been at this parenting gig too long? I never thought to celebrate this particular day. I remember the pit in my stomach as I started each brand new school year and I have quietly celebrated the years when my own children didn't appear to inherit that gene.

I am feeling a lot of trepidation about this upcoming year.

My son is a high achiever and he burned himself out last year. He dropped a mandatory course rather than produce a mark that was anything less than he has come to expect of himself. He tried taking it through cyber school instead and hit the same wall. He dropped out again.

He tried changing to a different branch of social studies so he wouldn't have to face this demon again. But it didn't pan out.

It is on his semester one schedule. It is his new reality.

We talked a little bit about this yesterday and he said he knows he just has to power through it and get the job done. By the end of January, it will all be history (literally - it is a Grade 11 history class which has become his nemesis).

At the beginning of his second semester most of the "hard stuff" will be behind him. He will have an English class and a Native studies class, but the rest of that semester is filled with all of his electives.

He just has to push through the next five months.

He knows what he is up against this time. It sounds like he has given himself a pep talk and is going to defy all odds and overcome the assignment of the century, which has brought him down twice before.

I enjoyed the lack of stress within our home over the course of the summer holidays. My son revelled in it. No school. No homework. No assignments. No expectations. No schedule. No stress.

He is walking into his last year of public school this morning. By the middle of this year he will be expected to start making decisions about his Life After School.

I don't know how a seventeen year old can be expected to know what the "next best thing" for them is going to be. I thought I was so wise when I was seventeen but it didn't take too many years for me to see how little I knew about me, my life and where I wanted it to go.

I felt my way through life with little thought about my long term goals.

Get married, have children, get a job, have a life which revolved around my family and have a husband standing at my side at the end of it all.

I have reacted to life instead of planning it.

I think being able to react and act on your feet is a commendable skill. I believe this because my second son is a testimony to that fact. He has reinvented himself and his land through hard times and he just keeps standing. Life  hands him blows and he may recoil and keep to himself to garnish his strength for a while, but he pushes through. He does what has to be done to get through and past and beyond the moment he is in. I have learned if I don't crowd him, he finds his own answers. He finds his way. He always finds his way.

For my youngest son, entering his last year of public education, all I can say is just keep pushing through. Once you overcome one hurdle, enjoy the flat landscape while you can because there will be another hurdle around one of those corners ahead.

I hate hurdles but I have come to appreciate and value them (after the fact). They have taught me more than I ever learned within the walls of a school.

School teaches you to use your brain, manage the stress of classes, students and teachers who will one day mimic your future job, co-workers and bosses. School teaches you to show up, be accountable and do your best.

Life teaches you everything else.

Success is fleeting. Enjoy those moments in the sun because if you have achieved that moment, it was probably laced with many failed attempts. And if you haven't failed, you may not have set your sights high enough.

Look towards what you hope to have, hope to achieve and be prepared to fail along the way. There is no such thing as failure. I've read many things. It is the best time to sow seeds of success (Paramahansa Yogananda). It is the opportunity to begin again, this time more intellectually (Henry Ford).

My oldest son found his way to his dream job/wage/standard of living when he was about 27 years old. He has berated himself time and time again for the ten years he lost between graduation and finding his way. There has been little that can be said to alleviate his anguish over those lost years. But I truly believe he needed to find his way in his own time, to ensure his best chance of success.

Every obstacle, every delay, every detour and every fork in the road is necessary for us to feel we have lived the life we were destined to live. Don't live according to someone else's expectations. Follow your own path. Watch, learn, listen and absorb the lessons life will teach you and you will find your way.

Just get through this first semester of this last year, my son. It may feel like you are climbing the face of a mountain at times. Rest, drink plenty of water, breathe deeply and take the next forward step. Just keep moving. One step at a time. You will find your way.

I hope this year is successful in the ways it needs to be. Small victories all along the way will pave the way to crossing the finish line. Don't burn yourself out because there is another marathon ready and waiting for you when you finish this one. Slow and steady.

I keep telling myself this. it has been 37 years since I walked into my Grade 12 year at school. And I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I can't quite believe I'm still hoping for my happily ever after fairy tale ending after all life has taught me. I guess that's why I label myself a dreamer. I never give up. There is still a part of me hoping I have a husband standing beside me at the end of it all.

"We’ll try again and we’ll fail again because that’s what progress looks like. Progress looks like a bunch of failures. And you’re going to have feelings about that because it’s sad, but you cannot fall apart. And then one day, we will succeed and save a person’s life and we will walk on the moon." ~ Meredith Grey, "Grey's Anatomy"

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