The second New Year of the year is officially here – back to school, or perhaps more appropriately – back to schedules.
The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer (thank you, Nat King Cole) will soon be over. In their place will be extracurricular everything and a general assumption that our Mondays through Fridays, for the next nine months at least, will be lived out at breakneck pace.
Try as I might to linger in these last few laid-back days, my subconscious is already swiftly kicking me in the skinny jeans.
The other night I woke up relieved to find out we actually did not show up late for Meet the Teacher because we’d forgotten and gone swimming instead. It took me a few seconds to become fully alert and realize that, thank God, I was not really standing in the middle of the kindergarten hallway at East wrapped in a beach towel and smelling like chlorine and sweat.
The dream was ridiculous, but its essence not that far afield from what we expect of ourselves, especially in the overcrowded seasons of the academic year.
With so many required and nobly intentioned priorities competing for our time, snags are unavoidable.
We can set the alarm clock earlier.
We can lay out our clothes the night before.
We can even have a week of simple weekday suppers lined up.
But there still will be days that are going to bruise us.
When that happens, what will we do? How will we behave?
Remember kindergarten, and act like a five-year-old.
So says Robert Fulghum, in one of the all time greatest odes ever written about this pivotal year, All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten.
Although his essay has been reduced to inspirational poster fodder, I find the author’s words as relevant today as when they were first published in 1988:
- Share everything.
- Play fair.
- Don’t hit people.
- Put things back where you found them.
- Clean up your own mess.
- Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
- Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
- Wash your hands before you eat.
- Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
- Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
- Take a nap every afternoon.
- When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
- Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup; the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
- Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
- And then remember the Dick and Jane books and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all – LOOK.
Even on the worst of days, when you’re angry or stressed or scared or feeling sorry for yourself, consider these points in earnest; you’ll find its awfully hard to stay flustered.
The second New Year of the year is officially here. With it, we can expect to be enriched and challenged in soul-shaping ways.
On the cusp of diving headfirst into the new school year, and all that such entails for my own family, the basic premise of Fulghum’s essay is of great comfort to me.
Do the right thing. At your core, be a good and kind and noble and decent person, and you’ll do just fine.
Wishing you a fulfilling start to this “new” new year,