Living near the Youngstown State University campus makes this time of year interesting. I get an influx of new neighbors, thanks to the mass exodus of graduates crossing streams with the incoming hordes of freshmen. Yes, their music will be loud and dumb stuff I've never heard of, their parties will be messy and stretch into the wee hours of the morning (as did mine) and their street parking will be shoddy at best, but I enjoy them nonetheless.
Why you ask? Because of the eventual thought process that follows: I start to miss going to college, then almost immediately banish the thought and think myself an idiot for romanticizing four-to-five years of poverty, anguish and backbreaking mental labor.
I enjoyed college. Going from the cage-laying education of high school to the free-grazing philosophizing of college is exciting, liberating and way too much freedom for most 18-year-olds. The ritual of scheduling, buying books, meeting new people and sitting on benches drinking coffee with stacks of books and looking all intellectual is exciting and novel for no more than five years straight.
But I certainly do NOT miss cramming all night and driving to class with class notes stuck to the steering wheel; being inundated with credit card sales pitches that you fall for because there's a free Slinky, and ten years later are still paying off; having anxiety attacks when you realize you missed a test and have to grovel your way into a make-up; or working nights and basically having a 14-hour day where you just collapse exhausted at home because you're too broke to go out.
Even though I'm still in the last throes of graduate school, which is cake compared to an undergrad even though the coursework is more intense, I can still take joy in knowing those days are over. The second I wax nostalgic for my freshman days, I think "Fool!" Doing so for high school is just as inane. Teen cruelty and curfews? No thanks.
I'm going somewhere with this. Back-to-school for anyone is the semi-official end-of-summer death knell (the official one is the Canfield Fair, ringing out as we speak). Wishing you could be back in school for me is like praying for snow. Ugh. You miss it on a hot day, but detest it after a few days. Weeks. Months.
So, in accordance, it is now time to reflect on a summer well-had. I've already spent one column discussing swimming-pool dreams, another detailing the most jam-packed summer week off ever. But as an Ohioan fully aware of what awaits me in eight-to-ten weeks, I am honoring summer one more time before I am resigned to wearing pants (I hate pants) and shoes with closed toes, let alone parkas.
College (or the oft-cited School of Hard Knocks) has taught me enough to know that you have to be thankful for every day (at least every partly sunny / above 75 day). I made the most out of every day after the second week of May, even with all that rain. I mentally burned every sunrise, sunset, fluffy white cloud, green field, colorful flower, blue body of water and grain of sand to memory. I documented a million laughing friends talking and dancing on patios and dance floors.
I've even stopped worrying about making the most of this summer long enough to actually enjoy it. Last week, while driving to work, I crossed a one-lane bridge that opened into a pastoral scene so lovely that I actually pulled over and lay in a field of long grass blowing in the breeze for a few minutes, just skygazing. The morning of this writing, I looked out on Route 82 at a sky so hazy blue that it seemed as if an ocean would open up just beyond the horizon, and if I turned down the radio I would hear the soft lull of the surf. Maybe it's wishful thinking.
So cram in one last trip to the lake, a ride at the fair, another cookout, some more sandals, one more party. Be grateful for that four-month bone nature throws Ohio every year. Be grateful for all the fun and good times with friends and family you had doing summer stuff. Look forward to the brief splendor of Indian Summer. Enjoy every day from now until you have to dig out your gloves (and of course NONE of them match). And most of all, be grateful you're not in high school again.