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This is one of those days when I can’t help but think about the proverbial roads diverging in the yellow wood, and the places my choices have taken me to and from.

Today was always going to be my first day of school, but had I made different choices, I might have been the teacher today instead of the student. I might have had a classroom set up with maps of the world as understood in various time periods of history. I might have had posters hung around the room reminding my students of the virtues of hard work, or why it’s so important to study history as a discipline. I would have tried to decorate and arrange my classroom in a way that would entertain and engage my students, without being too distracting. I probably would have recruited my closest friends and family to spend an afternoon decorating with me, and celebrating this new phase in my life.

I might have spent last night nervously checking and rechecking my lesson plans, wishing there were some way I could fool-proof what was almost guaranteed to be a terrifying first day of teaching. I almost certainly would have been nostalgic for the days of waking up at noon for afternoon classes in college, since primary school hours aren’t fun for anybody. I would have, with almost no doubt, second, third, and fourth-guessed my decision to go into education.

Today, I might have spent all morning and afternoon trying to earn the respect of my first-ever students. I would have tried to portray myself as the teacher you wouldn’t disobey, either because you feared her or just didn’t want to disappoint her. I doubt I would have gotten to any social studies, because I’ve read that the first day, if not week, should be spent getting your classroom managed properly. But I would have preferred it otherwise. I probably would have cried, more than once, because I tend to cry when I’m overwhelmed with any sort of emotion. I would have fought to get through period by period until the last bell rang and I could collect myself at the end of a hard-won day.

Instead, I’m spending today, my birthday, embarking on a completely different journey. I woke up this morning when I felt like it, walked Loki, took a spinning class at the gym, ate lunch at my leisure, and will have the rest of the afternoon to myself until I go in to meet with my professors and take my first graduate course. I will throw myself into Sociology, reading, writing, and researching nonstop for the next two years at least.

I am more than ready for this- I’m thrilled! But it’s hard not to be sentimental for my other choices. Hence this post.

That being said, I wish, from the depths of my heart, a wonderful, exciting, brilliant, happy first day of school to everyone who is going to have one this year. Education is such a wonderful privilege, and I hate to see it treated or experienced as anything else. From my baby cousins just starting preschool to my teacher friends stepping back in front of a classroom, I wish you all the best!

Update ~~~ I just got the best news. Instead of TA’ing Statistics, like I was slated to, the professor said he’d rather my assistantship be fulfilled by co-authoring a paper with him that I could present at a major Sociological conference. So not only will I not be fielding questions from undergrads about a subject I am horrible at, but I’m going to be getting paid to publish and present original research about religion in America. Bazinga.