As I was backing out of my driveway last week for what likely was my last time moving myself back up to Boston as a Boston College student, my mom yelled down to me to, “Have a great last first day of school!” I turned that phrase over and over in my head on the drive up to Chestnut Hill with a lot of sadness that my journey was coming to an end, but soon decided that perhaps it’s not entirely accurate. Of course, being a senior, I no longer have any more “first days of school” left, at least in the foreseeable future. Who said, though, that a first day couldn’t exist anywhere else but a school? The spirit of a “first day of school” is ever-present in our lives as we grow and encounter new experiences.
Think back to your first day of kindergarten or elementary school. New backpack, new shoes—maybe even a new awkward haircut if you’re anything like me—and a brand new experience laid in front of you. Personally, I found this to be eerily similar to my first day at BC three years ago. The same feelings of ambiguity, surprise, apprehension, the excitement of making new friends, the gloom of leaving old friends, were as present then as they are today. What the idea of a first day of school contains is the necessity of going forward into uncharted territory, but doing so with an open mind and a willingness to learn, be challenged, and turn your world upside down.
First days are a lot like first steps of a journey, and we experience them in a variety of settings and over time. The beginning of a new job, a new relationship, a new home, a new way of doing things—they are all happenings throughout our lives that test us in some of the most worthwhile ways. It’s often easy to retreat back into our comfort zones and individual worlds at times like these, but that’s exactly the opposite of what the experience is calling us to do. Speaking up instead of standing back, talking to a stranger, and doing things differently are all ways to seize the ineffable magic that a “first day of school” has to offer.
Life is full of first days of school, or experiences that demand our strength and test us in the more important ways. They allow us to rethink prior beliefs and ways of living and offer up a new path if we so choose to take it. The cliche goes that if life is about the journey, a journey always commences with the first steps. And, it does not only have to be a few steps down Linden Lane or up the Million Dollar Stairs—it could very well be off a plane in a new city, or into a new office, or into a new way of thinking. First days demand that we show up, open our hearts and minds to the magnitude of the present, and dive headfirst into a fresh new experience with patience and wonder.