Reflections on last days of summer

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 12:42 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 21, 2010

Classes at the MU started Monday. I’m sure you, dear reader, have noticed the influx of college students into Columbia last week. I’m from a college town, Ann Arbor, Mich., so the rhythms of the university are as natural to me as the seasons, and move-in weekend heralds the promise of the end of air so hot and humid you may as well be swimming in it.

Unfortunately, it also heralds the end of the quiet. I like Columbia in the summer, and not only because the yelling at 2 a.m. outside my apartment window is kept to a minimum. Without the sheer numbers of MU students crowding things up, a peace settles over the town. The kind of peace that means you can get a coffee without waiting 10 minutes in line or just sit in the park on a lunch break without having to overhear the gory details of someone else’s night out.

I’m a summer person. I thrive on beaches, swimming, reading and doing nothing in the sun.

Like the first real day of fall when the Missouri humidity breaks and the air just smells like the cooler seasons, it is always a bit of a shock to the senses to be living adjacent to a full campus again. But, it’s refreshing. All the heat and peace and quiet can start dulling the senses. The heat makes me want to lie in the sun reading a book. But fall is, like the coming of all new things, exciting.

I am supposedly entering my last year of formal education. Leaving the seasons of the school year is a little terrifying. Not defining life in terms of semesters and professors and homework seems nonsensical. Colleges, college towns and kids who grew up in these towns are intricately tied to these structures.

I may bitterly complain about the trappings of the new school year: the thousands of students; the noise; the lines; the workload of classes; the reliance on caffeine; the eyestrain from staring at a computer; even football Saturdays are causes for annoyance.  But the rigor, academic and otherwise, of the school year is really part of the appeal. After the lovely heat-induced stupor of summer, fall is fun.

So, going back to class doesn’t seem so very bad. My brother, Jake, who started fourth grade this month, is more prone to mourning the loss of video game time along with unilaterally refusing to do any homework in cursive handwriting. But I have mellowed in my opposition to the first day of school, maybe because I can type all my assignments. (Actually, it’s because I am no longer being required to memorize multiplication tables.)

It’s a scary thought, but I can see the end of this academic road. When you’re a fourth-grader like my brother, the end is INFINITY AWAY. Meanwhile, I scheduled graduate school commencement into my planner — by May 15, 2010, it’s over for me. I am excited about the possibilities of a life not so caught up in the college lifestyle. I think that I am ready to get out.

I do like summer, but autumn means that the school year is rebooting. I guess that other towns are not so tied to this heartbeat, but it's as good as any way of life that's out there. If you so choose to live in a college town, it is a nice lifestyle. It’s like school is always in session.

Erin K. O'Neill is a former assistant director of photography and current page designer for the Missourian. She is also a master's degree candidate at the Missouri School of Journalism.

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