With the Officeworks back to school ads blaring, my little brother complaining about having to go and try on new school shoes and most of the adults surrounding me groaning about how the Christmas break already feels like it was months ago, it’s easy to think that it’s just like any other year. That, at any moment, I’ll have to round up supplies for my pencil case and pack my bag so I can head back through those school gates for another school term.
Except, I’m not.
I waved goodbye to my school when I walked out of my last exam and it’s only just sinking in that I’m not going to be heading back to the same classrooms and school oval that I have for the past six years. I’m not going to be seeing my friends or my favourite teachers or be putting on the school uniform I shoved at the back of my closet.
It feels good. I don’t have any pangs of anxiety about the holiday homework I was meant to do and there’s no lingering feeling of ‘you should be doing work’ hanging around me. I still have so much time until I have to start something and there’s heaps more sleep ins while everyone else goes to work ahead of me.
But at the same time, it’s kind of terrifying. Until now I was coasting on the feeling of familiarity that comes with this time of year. Christmas and New Year done and dusted, sleep ins and late nights. I’ve been swept up in the end of year whirlwind of obligatory family gatherings and over-eating before being dropped back down in the midst of a summer heat-wave. I’ve just been waiting for my alarm on the morning of first day of school to make me get my ass into gear and actually do something.
Only, it’s not coming.
While everyone else heads back into a stuffy classroom I’ll probably be lying in bed, watching yet another Netflix series and eating Doritos. Attendance rolls will get marked and my name won’t be on them. Lunch times will pass without my group sitting in our favourite spot and my seat in every classroom will become someone else’s.
No one is kicking me into gear, making me think or get something (anything) done. I’m in a weird kind of limbo, where I know that soon something will have to get started but right now it just seems like a far off dream that, if I don’t think about it, won’t come any closer.
It’s strange, because at one point I was counting down the days until I could experience this freedom. In the midst of my final exams the thought that eventually, I’ll be able to lay in bed for hours on end without pangs of guilt at not studying, was what pushed me through. I couldn’t wait to catch up on all the movies and TV shows I’d missed, and spend time with my friends without our study notes.
And now I’m here and the reality that I’m not heading back to school is finally hitting me. It’s like I’m breaking up with high school, and the realisation that I’m done has dawned on me in a way that it didn’t during exams, formal or graduation. It’s the final sign that the past thirteen years of my life are officially over, there’s no more. No more counting down until I finished, I’m finally here. So what the fuck do I do now?