Back to School Is Like New Year’s for Grown-Ups

I was inspired by something I read by SUCCESS blogger Patti Johnson, who said back to school for kids is like adult New Year’s. She’s absolutely right. All the promises we make to ourselves as the calendar winds down to Day 365 and turns over to Day One are the same pledges that students make every summer’s end as they head back to school.

I will be a better student.
I will make more friends.
I will make the varsity team.
I will be one of the cool kids.

As adults, we pledge these same mantras on Dec. 31, perhaps with a champagne flute (or red plastic cup) in hand. “This year will be my year,” we proclaim to no one in particular.

I will be a better boss or employee.
I will be a better friend.
I will get promoted.
I will be the Facebook or LinkedIn profile I actually portray.

We’re all works in progress. I reminded my 6-year-old son of this the other day when we had an interesting conversation about perfection. We were talking about “being an angel” behaviorally when he asked what exactly that meant. I told him angels are perfect and make no mistakes like ordinary people like you and me. Now, I’d have to consult my good Catholic girl handbook to verify that’s correct, but I was trying to make a point.

With a look of hurt and surprise, he said, “You mean I’m not perfect?” Like an aside in a play, he continued talking to himself or the dog, I’m not sure. “Mommy doesn’t think I’m perfect.”

Tripping over my own words, I told him that nobody is perfect, but you can be the most perfect version of yourself. He and I both were not satisfied with my response, so I continued.

“I think you are the most perfect you.”

Should I have told him yes, he’s perfect? No, because that’s the challenge of life—to become better beings every day.

Does a 6-year-old get that? Probably not.

But that’s what every new school year and calendar year promises—the opportunity to recognize where we need improvement in our lives and ourselves, and the shiny new optimism to resolve that we’ll make those improvements and be better.

Incidentally, we had that talk about perfection on the first day of school. Every new morning brings the opportunity to be better than we were the day before, I told him in less eloquent words that I’m writing here.

So the next morning came. And the lesson that every day can be better than the day before? Getting ready for his second day of school, he tripped and fell into a sharp corner, cutting himself below his eyebrow. He earned three stitches and a black eye.

Never mind what I said. No one’s perfect. But tomorrow is another day.

Read Patti Johnson’s “The Grown-Up Guide to a Back-to-School Fresh Start”—with 8 ideas to get going on endless possibilities.


Journalist, podcaster and southpaw Shelby Skrhak is the former director of digital content and social media for Before joining SUCCESS magazine, Shelby launched the weekly suburban newspaper Plano Insider, and covered topics ranging from cops and courts to transportation and fashion. Her handwriting should be a font.

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