Each day, as I read our Back to School series, I can't help but get a little melancholy since it's been, oh, you know, just a few years since I've been in school. More so, though, I find myself feeling grateful. Grateful I grew up in a time in which one of my biggest concerns was am I going to go with the standard Crayola marker set or am I going to run this classroom this year and roll in with the Mr. Sketchy scented markers set?

Without getting in too deep about everything school-aged kids have to deal with, I just genuinely feel bad.

As I read about clear backpacks, metal detectors and school resource officers, it gives me a newfound appreciation for how simple life was when I was in school.

The state of the world may be in shambles, but we can't lose hope - it's not all bad, and we have to have faith in future generations to make it better. With proper parenting and guidance from authority figures and teachers, there is plenty of opportunity for bright futures ahead for all area youth no matter what their circumstances.

I'm not a parent or a teacher, but I'm comfortable stating it's important to not only guide them, but listen to the kids, too. Too often, I think we miss cries for help and obvious red flags because, as adults, we dismiss what our younger counterparts have to say based on an assumed sense that they are inexperienced in the world.

But, the world is different now, and kids are exposed to a lot more than we realize at a much younger age than the generations of the past. The world you and I grew up in is not the world they are growing up in. Life is coming at full force them physically and, in a huge way, digitally, and not only do I imagine that is overwhelming, I'm sure it's confusing and frustrating when an adult doesn't understand the perils of the world of Facebook and Ask.fm and other outlets kids use to communicate.

I went to Catholic school my whole life; it was a very tight-knit environment. I'm still friends, to this day, with those I attended Transfiguration, Queen of Peace and Lourdes with, and I again am thankful I had that opportunity to attend small private schools. It gave me room to be creative and discover my individuality and it felt more like a family environment due to such low numbers in the classrooms.

Kids, parents and teachers alike, all have so much to worry about these days. It has to be very hard.

Looking back on my days at Tranzy, as we called it, where I attended kindergarten through fifth-grade, I can't help but have flashbacks of my back-to-school priority list:


Any Catholic school girl will tell you, given the fact you were required to wear a plaid jumper every day, your shoes were your only style choice, so they had to be the perfect pair. I think there was a "Kinney's" downtown - I know there was one at the mall - but excitement would ensue when you picked out your prize pair of kicks and sat down while the shoe salesperson got out that crazy shoe measuring device and sized you up for your new school shoes. I always ended up with a t-strap Mary Jane of sorts, but nothing beat that feeling of finding the perfect pair to get you through the school year.


Catholic school has the reputation of being strict, so when it came to writing devices, pens had to be blue or black ink and pencils could be nothing but No. 2 or they wouldn't register on the Scantron forms. Oh, and did that grind my gears. With all the colorful and metallic ink out there, you are kidding me that I had to stick with blue or black. It was one of my biggest frustrations. Lucky for me, The News-Item affords me the opportunity to edit pages with hot pink or any other color ink I see fit so I can make up for all those years of ink oppression.

And let's not forget the folder system of all folder systems: The Trapper Keeper. It was a huge decision in the school shopping process. It pretty much defined your school year, so finding the quintessential plastic and Velcro envelope was huge. I mean, I loved horses but I also loved unicorns, so how was I, as a third-grader, equipped to make that decision if faced with two equally awesome Trapper Keeper motifs? Was I going to go the mythical route or just stick with tradition and go straight horse? Wait. But what about jungle cats? I love jungle cats!

I'm not sure how I made those tough choices in life.

Other challenges were finding the perfect plastic lunch box with matching Thermos, the right pencil topper - usually a troll doll - and avoiding dying of dysentery while playing Oregon Trail.

Aside from the scare of the "blue van with heart-shaped windows," there really wasn't much to fear in my formative years.

Not just related to school, either.

A recent trip to the beach took me back to how awesome life, in general, was before the occasional stress and sadness of the world sets in and tries to ruin your free and innocent spirit.

At one point, my life consisted of going to school, rushing to get out of school, summer break, trips to the beach, days at the pool and playing with friends. How in the world did I survive that tumultuous lifestyle?

First of all, to my parents, I have to say, "Thank you from the bottom of my heart." I know not everyone grew up with the privileges I did, and I am forever thankful for all the sacrifices you made in order to give me an ideal childhood. Sure, there were roads that were rough, but it's nothing like what parents and their kids have to deal with these days.

To heck with being a successful adult, how do I get back there - to the days when my biggest worries were whether or not my mom was going to allow me to have a sleepover or not? The complexities of adulthood set in when you aren't looking and they change you in many ways. They lead us on a path that we sometimes don't understand, but it's our own individual path nontheless, and in dealing with the rough patches, we determine how we set the course back to smooth sailing.

So, for all of you heading back to school, please don't take it for granted. The world isn't always fair and life doesn't always turn out the way you expect, but cherish these days and try to get out of it as much as you can, because although it's fun turning into an adult and finding yourself, paying bills and worrying about the various inconveniences in an adult life is dull in comparison to the opportunity you have as a young person to experience the world.

Keep it positive, keep it fun and remember to be nice to each other. You'll all be all right and achieve everything you ever imagined.

(Jenna Wasakoski, a News-Item editor, is a graduate of Von Lee School of Aesthetics and is certified as a professional makeup artist.)