For many students, the first day of school is kind of like their New Year’s Eve (though likely a little less drunk). You make grand resolutions to actually use your complimentary agenda, hole-punch your handouts and put them in your binder right away, start working on your assignments the day of, etc. etc. In elementary school, you showed up for the first day back after summer vacation—maybe wearing new clothes or sneakers—you walked into the classroom wishing that everyone would notice the re-invented you that the sunshine, summer camp, and two months off magically created. 

One of my favourite teenage angst idioms is when people complain, “people are staring, and judging me.” This is a favourite of mine for a few reasons. First off, these people are right: everyone is judging you–but not necessarily for the reasons you’d think. I’ll admit that I’m a starer. In my defense, I’m also a writer and photographer, so by nature I’m an eavesdropper (or, to put it more delicately, a people watcher). Whenever I ride the bus, I have a book in my knapsack, with good intentions to read it, but instead I observe the passengers around me. I envy the years when I was a little kid, and I could unabashedly stare at the people, learning and absorbing the ways of the world. Now when I stare at people longer than socially acceptable, they don’t smile, or wave, or make silly faces; they usually just flash me dirty looks, or in most cases, do that long blink people do when they can feel you looking at them but don’t want to confront the situation. 

However, one thing I’ve learned in my many-year career of being a student is that when you’re new on the first day and trying to meet people, the best thing you can remember is that people are always a lot less cool than you think they are. Or at least, the more you get to know someone, the less intimidating they become.

During my prep for back to school this summer, I sat down one morning, to clean my MacBook desktop. As with everything in my physical life, I’m also a file hoarder on my computer—more specifically, my desktop. Along with labeling things “Today,” having a messy, unorganized desktop is probably one of the worst habits to have as a student. Anyway, as I was trying to organize everything in sub-folders, I accidentally deleted a bunch of stuff I thought I made a duplicate folder for, and I lost a lot of files. After the initial panic, and trying to keep my cool in the coffee shop, I started scanning through the important files I didn’t delete, and realized that I may have saved myself hours of looking through stuff I didn’t need to backup on a harddrive, anyway.

Ever since I was little, I’ve been a hoarder. I hate throwing things out. Recently, as part of becoming a grown-up, I’ve realized with some anxiety that even with all my hoarded stuff, I still have no idea how to make my space look like “home” to me. I’ve lived in the same apartment for about three years now, and so far “home” looks like an agglomeration of past roommates, which is okay. Before school began, I started a project that turned my hoarding problem into “art.” I’m not usually a crafty person, but I’m currently working on a piece where I take old bus tickets, receipts, old notes etc., and paste it all as a collage on canvas.

One of the worst things for a hoarder-personality, is being raised by a parent who prays to the art of maintenance. Being careful with your tools is one thing, but some of the best advice I’ve received was from a classmate when I was in photo-j college, who reiterated that the camera is a tool, not an accessory, and if you’re going to use it every day—it’s going to take some abuse. I also grew up with the habit of keeping my all books in mint condition (probably out of fear from librarians lecturing us in elementary about taking care of our loans). But when you buy a tool for school with your own money, or your own student loan—you own it. Don’t be afraid to abuse your tools. I’ve recently picked up a friend’s habit of turning down the corners of pages in books, where you like line or a phrase; and the gratification of easily finding your favourite passages is well worth the wear and tear.

Much like being a freshman at university, I think this editorial has been of the under-focused, overwhelmed, disoriented type. Oh well. I hope this week you all break your resolutions (then find the ones that actually matter to you), talk to all the people who terrify you, and most importantly, use all your books enough that there’s ripped pages and coffee stains, ruining the potential resale value. 

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