My Last First Day of School


After six years attending SJS, senior Elliot Cheung examines how it feels to take part in the traditions that have been a part of his life for one last time. (Jake Nyquist)

As I crossed through the tunnel on my way to the first advisory of my senior year, filled with the all-too-familiar mixed feeling of dread and excitement that tends to accompany the start of anything new, a sudden realization dawned on me: it was 7:44 a.m. and I was going to be late to advisory. But with this fascinating discovery came also another, less important revelation: August 20, 2013 would be my last first day at St. John’s; it would be my last chance to catch up with all my friends and make small talk about summer, my last chance to find out where my new classrooms were, my last chance to say, “Sorry I’m late to advisory; forgot to set my school alarm.”

Of course, alongside this new-found realization came some nostalgia and reminiscing. I remembered my first first day at our lovely institution. About six years ago, I watched from the backseat window as the Georges middle school building came into view. I tumbled out of my mom’s car with confidence, already over a decade old and ready to take on a new school.

It turns out that, despite my initial confidence, I was not indeed quite ready to take on a new school.  At the time, I was not yet accustomed to wearing watches, but had I been wearing one, I would have realized that it was 7:44 and I was going to be late to advisory. Not exactly a great start to my new chapter of life. I also discovered throughout the day that I knew where nothing was; I had to ask my advisor several times where things were and even with her directions I managed to get lost. I remember fumbling through trying to juggle remembering where everything was, what all my new friends’ names were, and when I had to go to which class. Basically, my first first day was a disaster.

I handled my first day as a senior a tad better. This time I watched over the steering wheel as Senior Lot came into view. I tumbled out of my own car with confidence, already sort of close to two decades old and ready to take on another year at our oh-so-familiar campus. I knew exactly where all of my classes were, knew almost everyone’s name, and knew the bell schedule so well I could recite it in my sleep. The only thing I had to remember was to laugh at all the cheesy first day of school jokes that teachers always make. My last first day went as it should have.

Yet although my first day as a senior seemed so different from my sixth-grade experience, the two were identical in terms of more important factors. Both times, the same empowering feeling of having a fresh start to a new year came over me. And with it, a curious sense of wonder at what the year would bring.

The first day of school is the beginning of a new chapter, a revival, a chance to make the new year better than the last. No matter how much I dreaded its coming for the past two and a half months or how much I complained about it when it finally arrived, the first day of school will always be something special. As my last first day at St. John’s fades away, I take this last chance to tell myself, as I did in sixth grade and every year after that, It’s going to be a good year.

Elliot Cheung

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