Today is the first day of classes at Vassar. I do feel a little strange and sentimental about it, but if we’re being honest, has the first day of school ever really been fun? Personally, I spent my first days of school every year in a constant state of anxiety and, um, having absolutely no idea where anything was even at schools I had attended for three years. (Fact: my senior year of high school, I had to ask the counselor where the lockers were. She asked if I was a freshman. When I told her no, I was a senior, she looked at me like she was confused that I hadn’t just gotten off the short bus.)
When I was in middle school, the big anxiety was What Team You Were On (I can’t remember if we said “on” or “in.” Hmm). No, we weren’t debating the finer points of tops and bottoms just yet; each grade at my middle school was divided into four “teams” with whom you shared all of your “core classes.” So woe betide you if you weren’t on the cool team, or the team with all of your friends, or if you just ended up on a team with all the weirdos who still wore jean jackets and light-up shoes. You were on 7-3? Oooh, all the bitchy dance team girls are on that team. Have fun! Or worse — you’re on 7-2? Umm, NOBODY is on 7-2. You’re gonna be so bored. You’re on 8-1 and your best friend is on 8-3, but your crush is on 8-3 and if you get in a fight with your best friend, she can totally talk smack about you to your crush during science and you can’t do anything about it because you’re stuck in the 8-1 hall with that weird guy with frosted tips poking you in the back for the entire 50 minutes of algebra.
Middle school: shit was rough, and never rougher than the days when you learned who you were doomed to spend your year with.
High school was a little better, at least in the rainbow unicorn puppy bubble that was my performing arts high school where we all loved each other and only got bitchy when casting for shows went up or dance class placements for the next year were assigned. But the first day of school was invariably a sweaty, awful day where you tramped around our ginormous campus in the 110-degree Las Vegas heat from one class to another, cursing the gods who put seemingly the entire sophomore theatre class in sixth period chem with you because you were surely going to have to spend the entire freakin’ year listening to a bunch of idiots singing showtunes. I breathed a sigh of relief when the first day passed, block scheduling happened and we only had to go to four classes a day and the teachers all realized that they had to separate the theatre majors before all hell broke loose, never to be contained again.
Then came college. Not just one but TWO first-days-of-classes every year, and so many buildings whose abbreviations on your course schedule make no sense, and you’re STILL sweaty and running around and discovering your third year in that “OB” does not, in fact, stand for “Olmsted Building” (if only I had taken that as a sign NOT to take the Faulkner seminar).
So once you’ve located the classroom in question, you now have the unenviable pleasure of finding out Who Is In Your Class. And the further you get into college, the more fraught with disaster a class list can be. Will you be forced into a ten-person seminar in a dimly lit room with hipsters whose reluctance to speak in class will force you into a semester-long talking binge because you can’t handle silence in an academic setting? Or will that guy who had an academically-induced crush on last semester join you for another four months to learn even more about Walt Whitman’s weird sexual metaphors? And… wait… if he’s there, can you sit next to him? Is that socially acceptable? Should you even sit directly next to someone in a class that isn’t full, anyway? Should you leave a space? Is this like the urinal? What if you don’t leave a space and then EVERYONE ELSE DOES? Do you move? GODDAMMIT, PROFESSORS, WHY CAN’T YOU JUST ASSIGN US SEATS?!
I don’t miss the first day of school, kids. I don’t miss the aimless wandering around campuses that I should have long known by heart, burdened by my tragically poor sense of direction. I don’t miss worrying that my best friend is going to use her yearlong position on team 8-3 with my supercrush to steal him away from me. I don’t miss waiting anxiously to find out whether the professor will sign me into an overfull class or angsting about the fact that I’m sitting across from someone whose roommate I totally hooked up with last year and he absolutely thinks I’m a crazy skank. (That actually never happened, believe it or not, but it totally could have.)
All this said, be it known that I did have to wander the UNLV campus tonight trying to find the building where we were learning music for Sweeney. I guess I’m not out of the lost-on-campus woods just yet.