FRIDAY OPEN THREAD: Let’s Talk About Back To School Season (Whether You’re A Student Or Not)!

Hello my little backpacks, welcome to the first Friday Open Thread of September! I know not everyone who reads this website is actually going back to school right now – for many of you this is probably just a regular Friday, just the first week of September, just another moment in time to wonder “should I use that frozen salmon in the freezer for dinner this week or should I keep saving it just incase?” – but no matter what I’m up to in my life, I can’t help but feel like September is back to school season. Do you know what I mean? There’s something in the air.

Wow I wish my back to school style was as cool as the Pink Ladies in Grease 2, did y’all know Michelle Pfeiffer in that movie is my root?

That said, this is the first September in nine years that I actually am going back to school! It’s wild! I just started an MFA program at Sarah Lawrence and I’ve spent the week at orientation. Honestly, it’s been a little bit overwhelming – so many new people, so much new information, so many opportunities for anxiety and self-doubt already… it’s a lot. And classes haven’t even started yet!

Here I am on my third day of orientation, realizing I’m absolutely not going to have time for a social life this year!

There’s so much basic stuff about being a student that I sort of forgot about and am now trying to figure out quickly. How much sleep do I need? (More, I think, than when I was 18 and an undergrad!) How can I take care of myself in this new life? (Al(aina)’s got us covered.) What backpack will look cute and also be functional? (This one, I think.) Which notebooks should I use for class? Which pens? (Lucky for me we published a round table about school supplies yesterday!) Since Bullet Journaling didn’t work out for me (after so much excitement about it in January I fell off the wagon in May, I’m sorry), which planner should I get? (According to almost the entire Autostraddle staff, I’d say the answer to this is probably a Passion Planner, yeah?) How many extracurriculars are too many extracurriculars? Where’s the best place for me to get my work done? What do I wear to class? Should I put stickers on my new laptop or will I regret it? Will I ever find a cute laptop case? How do I get into a good habit of putting myself to bed? IS GRAD SCHOOL GOING TO BE THE THING THAT FINALLY MAKES ME START DRINKING COFFEE, EVEN THOUGH I REALLY HATE THE TASTE AND DO NOT WANT TO DRINK IT?!

Here I am on the first day of Kindergarten, rocking Power Ranger pants, a denim jacket, and an extremely cute backpack.

I’d love to hear from those of you who are in school right now, whether you’re three years into your PhD program or slogging through your junior year of high school or starting your freshman year of undergrad. What’s on your mind? What backpack are you gonna use this year? (Can you tell I’m taking this backpack situation extremely seriously?!) What are your best study tips? What are you excited to learn about? What are you dreading? Is it “back to school weather” where you live or are you also melting in 95 degree humidity? Show me a photo of your back to school outfit! Let’s talk about school stuff!

And of course, even if you’re not a student, I wanna chat! Tell me about your week, your autumn plans, your favorite way to cook that salmon in the freezer! Tell me about your hopes and dreams and the mundane details of your life that make up our universe. I wanna hear it all.


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Vanessa is a queer feminist writer and photographer currently based in New York. She really misses Portland. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 293 articles for us.

100 Comments

  1. Omg Sarah Lawrence like in Ten Things! Vanessa I hope you squealed like Julia Stiles when you got in ??‍? I’m starting a new job on Monday and I’ve bought myself some £10 ballet pumps to go with my second hand jacket and I’m gonna look fancy af.

  2. School! I woke up today after my first 2 days of class and realized this is my 20th year of school!!!! I’ve not taken any breaks between high school, undergrad, and now grad. I’ve just barged right on through the educational system, and that is neither a good or bad thing but I will say it is an exhausting thing! I’ve dealt with a number of mental health breakdowns/life problems while in school and have been able to keep just enough balance to continue on. Maybe breaks could have helped? Maybe I’d know more about what I want to do after this year is over? Idk? Education is weird and hard and there is no right way to do any of it.
    My goal for this year is to maintain my social life actually, I am refusing to give up all of my time to school. I want to hang out with friends, I want to bake for them, I want see their smiling faces and have long text conversations with my distance friends whenever I want. Sure, I’ll be writing my thesis, but I think that’s actually the best reason to maintain my relationships and keep healthier boundaries about school/social time.

    • JAY! MAZEL TOV ON YOUR 20TH YEAR OF SCHOOL IN A ROW HOLY MOLY!!!!!

      “education is weird and hard and there is no right way to do any of it.” <-- this sentence is so real and true and i appreciate you articulating it a lot a lot. i am so excited for you and your goal(s) for this year! maintaining a social life in grad school seems like a fantasy to me, and i haven't even begun my program in earnest yet, but your words inspire me to not throw up my hands in despair before i've even begun. this is me committing to stay in touch with long distance friends and create new friendships even if it feels difficult! thank you for the inspiration <3 and and and I MISS YOU TOO. you're so sweet to me. fingers crossed for magic & baking & friendship for all of us this year.

  3. Hi friends! No one in my family is in school at the moment, but my 20 month old twins got a “shopping spree” at Target in their school supply section, and let me tell you Target brand $.25 crayons are awesome. We splurged and got them a whole years worth.

    Speaking of my twins, we recently connected with a family who used the same donor as us and we are going to meet them next week! It is the twins older half-brother who is 3 and his mom. They are coming all the way from Australia and they are going to stay with us for a few days. We are nervous, but luckily both my wife and I have made friends with his mom so it should be fun. Wish us luck and happy times 🙂

    • WOW that sounds incredibly exciting! and also definitely something to feel a little bit nervous about – i think it would be surprising if you didn’t – but it sounds like you are emotionally and mentally prepared and excited and i hope you have the most wonderful happy times. wishing you a lot of luck! please let us know how it goes!!

      AND HOT TIP about target brand crayons, thank you for that (says this 29 year old adult who loves crafts aka me)

  4. Woohoo congrats on going back to studenthood! I too am entering a new grad program this year. I’ll be getting my masters in Library and Information Sciences. My classes started on Tuesday, and I can tell it’s going to be an exhausting but fun semester. I’m going 100% online, but also balancing part time work (and possibly more part time work), and, for the first time ever in my student history, a chronic illness. I’ve never been a student who can pull all nighters and live on french fries and wings, but now my body is a finicky diva that needs 8+ hours of sleep a night and full meals and care, plus it needs regular doctor visits and trips to the pharmacy and other time consuming activities. It’ll be interesting to see how school, work, and illness are balanced, but I’m up for the challenge! I also doubt I’ll have a social life this year. My girlfriend and I have barely spoken this week and we live in the same house! But I think it’s important to prioritize self care, so my biggest study tip isn’t to buy cool pencils or find a quiet room to study or charge your laptop, it’s to take care of you. Eat good food and go outside for fresh air and call your friends and family and take time each day to reflect and be mindful and drink lots of water. Oh and welcome to New York!! We’re so happy to have you 😀

    • wow wow wow thank you this comment is really kind and i think i shall copy that last bit onto a piece of paper and pin it on my wall above my desk because what excellent advice! gonna go on a walk and call some friends in a bit, thank you for the reminder/permission!!

      and congrats to you on your new grad program, too!! we met the librarians who will work specifically with my program this week and they were SO COOL and had SO MUCH KNOWLEDGE and it made me secretly wish that i could become a librarian one day, too. i’m so happy for you that your first week felt fun and good, and i RELATE SO HEAVILY to having more human body needs this time around with school than ever before. i’m also working multiple part time jobs and will also be trying to get as much sleep and good food as possible! WE CAN DO IT! i believe in us both 🙂

  5. Several of the women in my office had kids get GCSE results and start college/apprenticeships the last couple of weeks and I’m pretty envious of them! I love studying, but I can’t afford to do the course of my dreams, so I make do with my free Memrise Italian five minutes a day instead. Not that I’ll ever use it.

    And one of my friends from work had her baby last Saturday. She has had a lot of health problems related to the pregnancy and after the c-section had to have emergency surgery and nearly died. But she’s home now and resting and her little baby girl is gorgeous from the two pics she sent me.

    There’s a lot of babies around as well – two other women in the office are also pregnant and one of them got pregnant whilst on maternity leave!

    • i’m so happy to hear that your friend and her baby are doing well! i agree, i feel like there is a lot of pregnancy and baby news around me right now, and i for one am here! for! it!

      ps: do you like memrise? i’m always looking for a language learning option i’ll actually enjoy/use.

      • Memrise works fine for me – you can do a minimum of five minutes a day or more as you choose as your daily goal. I mainly do it as something to keep my brain active. It is mostly listening though – you’re not speaking or writing the language.

  6. Vanessa, I too am not wild about coffee, and I got through undergrad, master’s and PhD without it. You can do it. Congrats on starting the Sarah Lawrence MFA!

    Oh and everybody in the northern hemisphere: go get your flu shot! 🙂 Happy Friday, all!

    • that is so reassuring, thank you! i’m down to up my tea intake but like, i really have no interest in developing a coffee addiction when i so actively do not like it! also, thank you! also, WOW a masters and a PhD, you are my academic hero!

      Sarah Lawrence is giving free flu shots at the campus health fair in early October so i’m holding out until then to get mine! thank you for the reminder, I LOVE THE FLU SHOT.

      • Yeah I did tea sometimes and Coke (the soft drink, thank you!) when I really needed the caffeine, but I tried to avoid that as much as possible. I dunno if my tolerance for chronic insufficient sleep and acute extra deprivation following an all-nighter has really worsened since undergrad (probably, that was 20 years ago) or if I was just oblivious to it then (also likely), but these days if I pull an all-nighter I feel mostly fine though tired the next day…and then major-depression-level awful the day after that. So I am mostly much better about protecting my sleep!

        Mind you I have enormous difficulty making myself do anything cognitively rigorous until late afternoon, and I’m a night owl by preference…and I have to get up early enough for morning school drop-off…so protecting my sleep and getting anything done on my dissertation were near impossible to reconcile. 🙁

  7. I’m not currently in school, but I work a hodge-podge of school-adjacent jobs (I’m a theatre teaching artist, an ACT/SAT tutor, and a writing instructor). So I’m going to use the start of the school year as an excuse to buy lots of school supplies.

    My best friend is starting grad school, and I’m feeling intense envy. I don’t know that going to grad school would be the best thing for me right now, especially since I don’t know what I would go FOR and I don’t need to put myself in debt. But I really love academia, and I miss being in an environment where I know exactly what to do to succeed. Since finishing undergrad, I’ve felt pretty directionless without the external validation of professors. That’s something I should probably work on… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • i also relate to this comment a lot!

      i had a lot of envious feelings towards friends when they started grad school over the past 9 years, because i love school and always felt like i wanted to go too but wasn’t quite sure it was the right choice for me. finally last year i decided that i did really want to pursue an MFA, and i’m grateful that i waited. one thing i always wanted to do in the time between graduating undergrad and starting grad school which i never actually followed through on was take a class or two at my local community college. it was walking distance from my house and the classes felt affordable to me and i think it could have made me really happy and helped quench some of those “i miss school and learning in a classroom” feelings. so, if that’s accessible to you, perhaps it is an option to think about!

      feeling directionless without the external validation of professors and academia in general is a bigger feeling that we could all probably be working on? i need to work on my desire for external validation in all aspects of my life, tbh. if you come up with any good coping mechanisms, plz let me know!!

      ps: what’s your favorite school supply to stock up on?? i love pink highlighters.

      • ^^ I’ve taken two classes over the past three years at the community college in my old city and it was an amazing experience. I would have take more if I could afford it (the downside is that if you already have a degree you have to pay out of pocket for the class). I also struggle with the needing external validation thing. Luckily, by the end of my undergrad years I was so burnt out and depressed all the time that I mostly just disappointed professors, so I didn’t have to miss that when I first graduated! By the time I took my first community college class I was mostly back to my old self though. It also helped that the classes were a little easier than I was used to in undergrad, although I don’t think that was necessarily due to them being at a community college – it was more that I was taking classes in subjects I excel at and was already interested in, as opposed to just finishing the requirements for my degree.

      • External validation of teachers/professors is a heck of a drug, isn’t it? Easy to get hooked on in long years of schooling where the teacher knows the right answer and producing that right answer is what you get rewarded for. When you get to a point where no one knows what the right answer is or there could be a lot of right answers, suddenly you have to wean yourself off it…

  8. I find it so weird how the US and other countries start the school year halfway through the year! I totally get why, but it is so different compared to Australia.
    Also I’m halfway through my second year and uni, only 3 more years to go ?

  9. Congrats on starting school again you look very fab as always in your picture. Also happy new years to you. I think it’s a good sign new school year and news years in the same time frame. I am not in school and really thought about it, but I am not sure what I would want to go back to school for, besides maybe learning programing, but my math skills were never the best. However, when I last in school mp3 players were still a thing and I had this high-end model from Korea that played any audio or video you threw at it(this was before video iPods became an actual thing) and it could record audio, which I used to supplement my notes. Really came in handy at times. I also use my phone(acceptable quality at best) to take images of diagrams that were important. Now that phone and desktop offer apps that can use the camera for OCR(optical character recognition, ie scanning) it could make document, note, and white/blackboard scanning really easier and better. Some apps, like MS OneNote, offer text search(I know it offers it with notes handwritten in the app, but kind of sure it for scanned notes too).

    How is everyone’s week going? Mines has been pretty good. Spent Sunday at Cuties Coffee and had a great time as usual with regulars. It was also Salvadorian Day Parade outside so it was interesting to see Salvadorian people on motorcycles, horses, and walking while a bunch of visibly LGBTQ folks were having fun. Love it! This Sunday they also have another event going on, which should be fun. If anyone is in the area you should come if you can make it as they still need customers to stay open. I spent Sunday night with friends and sort of went gay bar hopping and ended a Denny’s with terrible service. Good times all around. Spent Monday helping my mother cleaning up for the holidays. Last night had loads of homemade hummus(for testing purposes for Sunday) watching the Golden Girls, which very gay, but also very West Asian. Side note I am going to start referring to the Middle East(European term not used in that region) as West Asia(a term used in that region).

    Don’t have a new image I can share, so I will leave you amazing folks with a relevant piece of street art I saw last year.

    Thank you for viewing and reading my post. Have a positive weekend, great school years, and a Happy Jewish/Lunar New Year.

    • Al, i always love your comments so much! thank you for sharing little pieces of your life with us.

      1. thank you for the compliment re: my photo
      2. thank you for those school tips! so much cool technology out there to help me be productive (as opposed to helping me procrastinate!)
      3. your week sounds so great! i am very envious of everyone in LA who can spend time at Cutie’s! everyone should go spend more time at Cutie’s! do it!
      4. YES HOMEMADE HUMMUS
      5. i didn’t know that about “Middle East” vs “West Asia” – thank you for sharing!

      SHANAH TOVAH, AL! hope your new year is wonderful <3

      • Thank you for the nice comments, very much appreciated. There really is a lot tech out there, but some of that requires consent from teachers, like the audio recording. I remember asking teachers and most were okay about it, but that was a decade ago. I didn’t for stuff on the board as some teachers were fine with people taking pics, but a decade ago there were only like 3 devices(two Nokia and one Sony) that were acceptable at pictures.
        I have a very knowledgeable friend(Ashkenazi Jew) explain how Middle East is just a European term. I thought about it for a moment and was like yeah we never use that word in our own languages.

    • This sounds like poetry or a story all on its own!

      I, too, am not a coffee person, but I keep imagining that someday I’ll meet someone and learn how to make coffee, for her (I’m a morning person, so I imagine I’ll habitually be the first of us to rise).

      • about five years ago i was living in a communal situation and i had a girl sleepover and in the morning i offered to go and “make us coffee” even though i do not actually drink coffee and then i went into the kitchen and frantically begged one of my housemates to teach me how to make coffee and she made a lot of fun of me (in a nice way) for not knowing how, at age 24, to brew a simple cup of coffee but she did teach me and now i can always impress a babe who sleeps over! in short, i think the right person will totally encourage you to learn how to make coffee, but also maybe one day we’ll all just meet some babes who like tea better instead, ya know 😉

  10. Vanessa! Enjoy school! I’m so excited for you!

    September always feels like a time of beginnings, and this year I’m thinking hard about how I’m ready to have a kid! By myself! I did not think I would get here but here I am! And it’s exciting! And I’ve got no idea where to start! And feeling mighty jealous of my straight friends right now!

    Also realizing it would’ve been convenient right about now if I had cultivated literally ANY adult friendships with men?

    • As someone who is in a straight-appearing relationship and literally just had my second kid weeks ago, Horay!!! I am glad you are doing this. Also it is really hard even if you have a supportive partner so start thinking about and building community with others who you think understand the serious emotional and financial demands of parenthood and can be there with you. I have been seeing my queer friends not have babies, or as many babies; and the people who are in relationships where the sperm/egg/uterus scenario paves the way for less complicated conception, have many babies. And it makes me so bummed that there are so many fewer queer parents. Not even totally sure that statement made sense, hopefully it did. I’m so glad you’ve made this choice.

      • Thanks, Juno! I have a bunch of really supportive family in town, including a nearly-retired mom and close cousins I grew up with who have just started having babies of their own. Watching them, and watching the parents I worked with when I used to nanny, I know it will be incredibly hard in ways I think I can imagine but truly can’t, but I’m as ready as I can be! ?

        Finding a donor and conceiving is gonna be the first hard part, tho! It’s so costly if you aren’t able to find a known donor who wants to help!!!!

        Congratulations on your second child! I hope you’re both doing well and getting at least a tiny bit of sleep! Big hugs to you.

    • QG, wow, hurray! Because you will get to a point where everyone is eager to tell you how hard parenting is, I have math for you. True math! Because everything anyone says about omg parenting is so hard is true, granted, but the awesome parts are totally worth it. So my math for you is ratios:

      Actual parenting difficulty
      ———————————- > 1
      Worst fears

      Actual parenting awesomeness
      —————————————— >>>>>>> 1
      Bestest imaginings

      Today my daughter put on her rain boots and we walked through our neighborhood jumping and stomping in every puddle we passed. Which was a lot. And at every new puddle, after her first jump she would shriek in surprise at how cold the water was. And then jump some more. And then cackle in delight.

      You’ll be a great parent.

    • QUEER GIRL THIS IS SO FUCKING EXCITING HOLY SHIT!!!!!!!!!!

      as a human who would also like to be a single mama soon enough (like, in 5 years? maybe?) i have shared many of the thoughts you just articulated – no idea where to start! jealous of straight pals! why don’t i have any potential sperm donors in my life! etc!

      BUT! HOLY SHIT! YOU GOT THIS! I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU! I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS MORE! I FEEL SO MUCH JOY FOR YOU! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

      thank you for sharing with us and happy friday indeed <3

  11. Shana tova! I’m out of school, but we had our annual staff BBQ at work today, so it’s kind of like a back-to-school event. They had airbrush tattoos, and I got one of my dog because I’m an obsessed dog mom.

    Are you (collective you) doing anything for Rosh Hashanah? I work at a Jewish non-profit which is holding services, so I’m working, but it’ll be fun.

    • That airbrush tattoo is THE BEST. That is just amazing! Be a proud dog mom!

      My kid goes to a Jewish day school so there are a lot of days off coming up. Every year when I update our family calendar I’m like, what is even the point of having a Jewish school in the fall? So many days off. I am looking forward to children’s services, though. My spouse has been working Saturdays and Jewish holidays for years and is on parental leave now so we can finally go all together, and I can show off our 3 week old baby on Monday, after everyone in our congregation has seen me pregnant for the past million years.

    • omg CUTE PUP!!

      i have tentative plans to visit an apple orchard with a close friend, but now they’re predicting rain on sunday so i’m not sure – i hope we still get to go. either way i’ll be eating apples and honey and making resolutions and setting intentions! i hope your services are meaningful and fun. shanah tovah!

  12. I went back to school in January and went through the summer. Had the last 3 weeks off until class started on Wednesday. I’m feeling reasonably good about it, aside from the fact that I’m fighting tendonitis in both my arms and some somehow related nerve problems that my doctor and physios haven’t been able to improve yet. So that’s stressing me out. Also, I have a whole whack of networking events this week for co-op positions next year and wow that’s a stressful nightmare. Once I’m done applying for a bajillion co-op positions in the next couple weeks I’m hoping school life will calm down a bit!

  13. I’m in a weird place emotionally because it’s election weekend and the neo-nazis are polling as the second largest party… and instead of responding to that, the people I grew up with, sat in political meetings with every other week, and worked past election campaigns with are adopting their rhetoric, attacking the concept of gender pedagogy in schools, and posting campaign videos about how voting for the left is exactly like creating a communist dictatorship.

    Sure, I get that they don’t want people to vote for the opposition, BUT can we please acknowledge the huge nazi elephant in the room and the fact that the opposition at least ISN’T a huge nazi elephant??

    • ugh, that sounds so painful and also so scary. i’m really sorry you’re experiencing this. i’ve encountered many folks ignoring “huge nazi elephants,” and it’s really fucking terrifying. sending you strength and solidarity and fingers crossed for good results.

  14. To answer your backpack question, Vanessa: I am entering my fifth year of grad school and I swear by the JanSport Big Student backpack. I have used it for 3 years heavily and the straps and bottom of the bag are holding up really well. I’m hoping I can get through this year and next year (my final year) with the same backpack! Comes in a variety of fun patterns and has a million pockets, if you like that sort of thing. My girlfriend bought me a beautiful Herschel backpack but it only lasted for a year before it fell apart.
    In undergrad I rotated through Vera Bradley backpacks, which were always so pretty but never lasted very long.
    Good luck with the start of grad school! It can be very overwhelming (I cried on the first day) but Al’s tips were great for maintaining your sanity–especially the one about hobbies!

    • oh my gosh I LOVE that you took my backpack questioning seriously. I APPRECIATE THIS INPUT SO MUCH. I am extremely indecisive so I’m still going back and forth but I am taking this into account!

      and thank you for the luck! I’m nervous but excited which feels right. I will probably cry on the first day and I’m okay with that. <3

  15. At home in Seattle the weather has been giving me such strong back to school feelings, and I love it although I’m not going to school. It’s one of the things that makes it okay that summer is ending. However this weekend I’m in Arizona for a friend’s wedding and y’all Arizona is hot. I was out late for the bachelor party last night and it was 95 degrees at ONE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING. How is this a real climate where humans live. But I did get to go swimming this morning and it was glorious.

    • 95 degrees at 1am is NOT ALLOWED NOPE. whenever I complain about the heat wherever I am, I think about how hot it is outside of Laneia’s house at that exact moment and I stop complaining. or at least, I complain with the knowledge that it could be hotter.

      Pacific Northwest fall weather is some of my absolute favorite weather in the world. I just moved back east from Portland and am feeling extremely homesick for September in my neighborhood and in the Gorge. Say hi to the west coast for me?

  16. Ah back to school, that magical time of year when I recover from the amnesia of what beginning of the year kindergarteners are like and third graders forget how to sit on the floor. Where my other teachers at?

    • haha, my mom is a kindergarten teacher and this is highly relatable content from how she always describes the first month or so. my dream is to become a teacher, so i both very much appreciate the work y’all do and also appreciate you keeping it real so i know what is to come if my dreams come true!

  17. I would love to study creative writing. But the thought of having to do any studying, essays and/or exams makes we want to cry so I’m sure I’m done with academia ?

    I did spend today helping at school events for the children’s book of a UK celebrity . It was sooo much fun, and The kids were awesome, if rambly and random with their questions:P

    I’m super tired but it’s a nice change from working in office

  18. Oh man, all this back-to-school content is making me feel THINGS. I was accepted to four grad programs this year but had to turn them all down due to not wanting to be over $100,000 in debt when I finish. I moved this summer and I’m reapplying this year to a program in my (new) state, but I so wish I was going now! I’ve been out of undergrad for three years! I’m ready! AHHHHHHH!

    That being said, congrats and good luck to anyone who is starting school right now. Okay, now I’m gonna go salivate over school supplies I absolutely do not need. Have a nice weekend, everyone!

    • Good luck on your reapplications, Ivy (and congratulations on having been accepted to four programs, even if you decided not to go at this time)!

      I’m two years out of undergrad and am also trying to get back to grad school soon, but also am not financially ready yet. But back to school season makes me so wish that I was. I definitely stalked through the back to school aisles at Target last weekend just to gaze wistfully upon the school supplies!

    • seconding the commenter above me – congrats on so many acceptances, even if you chose to wait a year. and good luck with the reapplication process! i took 9 years off between undergrad and grad school and in retrospect i’m pleased i did, though i often felt envious of others as they went back to school for grad programs in the years i wasn’t in school. also, everyone deserves some new highlighters and beautiful pens!

  19. Back to school, oh my… I thought I was finishing up my master’s degree this fall with my internship, but, my school / program is offering a brand new tech certificate that i also really want! Since this is the first time it’s being offered, we’re the guinnie pigs, and the tuition is greatly reduced. Sooooo, I owe it to myself to keep going for another year eveen though I’m thoroughly schooled out, and don’t wanna’ write any more papers, contribbute to any more online class discussions, sit in any more webinars or take any more timed exams, I owe it to myself to keep going! I’m a perpetual student. This term, I’ll be making a much greater effort to get out and socialize. It feels “daring” and scary to me, but I’ve been going new places all by myself trying to mix it up and mingle. Best to all of you!

  20. Phone ate my comment while I was helping save grandmother from involuntarily from acquainting her face with the floor. 🙁

    No preface now…

    Think I had this as a child:

    https://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/apple-honey-challah/

    it’s honey-apple challah, how a gentile child was eating it I dunno but why is pretty clear

    And this is a bunch of ways how to braid or make fancy looking shapes

    https://toriavey.com/how-to/challah-bread-part-2-how-to-braid-challah/

  21. I just finished the second week of my final year of undergrad. I thought it would feel weird not having as many classes (I only need 6 classes, so 3/semester), but I’m stressing even harder about what comes after graduation. Still, I’m nearly done with a degree that eight years ago I would never have believed I could get. So that’s something.

  22. Honestly the thing that is most on my mind is how to balance all of the things you mentioned with the obligatory nutritional requirements to keep me running. I can make a good salmon but can afford that? Not now. As far as backpacks go: I’m a proud promoter of the humble totebag; it’s big enough to fit anything you need, wide enough to dump out in a fit of stress, and always an easy way to let people know you are a cultured person who has been to a bookstore/culture event at least once and probably bring your own bags to the grocery store.

    But busy is good, and busy makes friends friendlier when you do get to see them. 🙂

    • Yes, keeping track of the “obligatory nutritional requirements” is proving to be unexpectedly difficult, especially now that I live alone! I keep forgetting to make food when I wake up because I’m not hungry right away, and then it’s 5pm and I haven’t eaten so I consume an entire jar of pickles or like, 5 tablespoons of peanut butter…I’m hoping a routine and a trip to Trader Joe’s will convince me to get some cheap and easy meals into my body on a somewhat regular basis.

      Also: potlucks! With friends!

      Also also: find a cute girl who want to cook for you to be impressive.

      These are my pro tips for feeding oneself when the task seems tricky. I hope maybe one or two are helpful to you. 😉

      • Wow! You know, I’m always down to eat a shameful amount of pickles but potlucks and cute girls are way more fun. I did finally unpack all of my vegetarian cookbooks and am also dying to cook for a cute girl I want to impress. I made a super yummy stir-fry last night. If only you’d been there to try it, it was caramelized to perfection.

  23. I don’t start class for another two and a half weeks (yay quarter system) but I’ve moved back to my apartment and it is hotter than Hades here in the Sacramento Valley. Also, another fire just broke out up north. It’s fine, everything’s fine.
    Re: the backpack situation: I carried a shoulder bag throughout high school and my first year of college and the uneven weight fucked up my back, shoulders, and hips for a long time, especially since I was carrying way over the recommended 10 percent of my body weight. I really like the Patagonia daypack I have now (https://www.patagonia.com/product/arbor-classic-pack-25-liters/47958.html?dwvar_47958_color=CNY&cgid=luggage-backpacks#tile-6=&start=1&sz=24).Tighten the shoulder straps so the weight is sitting high up on your hips, not pulling on your shoulders. (I also take the backpack situation extremely seriously! Having a sore, crummy back interferes with your sleep and is a general bummer.) Getting a rain cover for your backpack is also a good idea, even if your bag says it’s water-resistant.
    I feel very strongly about Blackwing 602 pencils and they are now the only thing I write with unless forced to use black or blue ink for paperwork.
    I am both excited about and dreading my final year of undergrad. I feel like three years went by way too quickly and I’m not entirely ready to leave. Or I am ready and I just don’t want to because I’d rather go to lecture and write essays for the rest of my life than do anything else. Both the scope and scale of responsibility at my job are daunting. On a brighter note, I’m almost done with my major so most of this year will be taking whatever classes I want and just making the most of it.
    My best study tip is making a designated study space. I find I’m not actually very productive at home, since my brain associates home with bed and television, so I have a few places on campus that I only go to study so my brain is trained to go into study mode when I’m there. I have ruined more than a few of these places by dicking around on the internet in them and now I can’t work there any more because my brain thinks it’s a fun space, not a work space.
    If you want to put stickers on your laptop but are afraid you’ll regret it, get a clear case and stick them on there. That way you can peel them off/soak the case in warm water and soap/get a new case if you get tired of them. I also take the case off if I have to bring my laptop to a business meeting or something where I don’t necessarily feel comfortable showing off my giant labrys and LAVENDER MENACE stickers.
    Also, I have new housemates and they were born after 9/11, so if anyone needs me I’ll be examining my head for gray hairs.

  24. I LOVE this time of the year. Just two weeks ago I was filled with self-doubt and just general blah/summer depression, but now I feel great! Motivated! Nearly skipping down the street! I turn 27 in a month!

    I graduated with my MFA in the spring and I was Very nervous that this fall wouldn’t hold the same energy because it is my first fall in 6 years I haven’t been in school, but it’s back.

    I started drinking coffee in grad school! Didn’t think it would happen but now I am officially a cannot-go-one-single-day-without-it person.

    Congrats on starting grad school, Vanessa! I loved it (not just because I met my S.O. there)- – – say yes to everything in school, talk to as many people as you can about your work, be selfish with your work, write your ass off, find mentors, etc, etc. It’s gonna be great/terrible/wonderful/stressful/SO intense!!!

  25. Nice picture first off – both your selfie and Grease 2. “Whoa whoa, I gotta go, back to schoooool…”

    I’m kind of in a rut right now career-wise and I found myself requesting info from a few schools in the area so that might be happening. I love school and learning and things. This season also makes me v happy – anniversary in two weeks, birthday in four, all the good things.

    Right now I’m heart-eyes-emoji…ing over new pictures of my three nephews. The oldest turned seven today and started in a new school in a new city this week. His three and one year old brothers are bringing the cute too as usual.

    As for backpacks team messenger bag/Timbuk2. But if I go back to school we’ll see…

    Have a good one y’all!

  26. Backpacks – JanSport. I’ve had one for nigh on thirty years. Around the ten-year mark its zippers and seams were getting iffy so I sent it off for repair – at least 20ish years ago JanSport would take even their ten-year-old backpacks for free repairs – and I got these adorable postcards “from” the backpack about how it was loving Backpack Camp. Got it back with totally fixed zippers, repaired and taped seams, and cleaned. Another 20 years on and one of the side zippers is a little finicky but that’s about it.

    Need to ask for some advice. My friend has twin girls, just turned eight. At least one and probably both with autism. The one who does have an official diagnosis is also transgender – has been socially transitioned for about three years. Family is quite supportive and overall she is doing great. Wendy (not her real name) has told some of her friends about being transgender and per her mom will bring it up “randomly.” Today she asked her mom for a play date with another girl who doesn’t know, and her mom has some concerns about that specific family and how they might react when/if they find out. (I don’t know why – Mom is protecting the family’s privacy so I don’t know any details.) Mom is trying to decide how to handle it in a way that respects Wendy, protects both her privacy and her right to disclose on her own terms, doesn’t make her feel like being trans is something she needs to hide in general, and avoids a negative reaction from the family (at least one that Wendy finds out about).

    I told her I knew people who might be able to offer some good advice; I have her permission to post this. Anyone? Especially those of you who are trans and/or autistic. I can answer questions about Wendy or her mom as long as I can do so without compromising their privacy.

    Mom has excellent communication skills and rather astounding patience, so if anyone could pull off a conversation with the potentially-problematic parents and come out with everyone still civil, she could. I’m leaning towards recommending that rather than putting any of it on Wendy herself – she does certainly need guidance to develop the skills of navigating disclosure and communicating her needs and all that but this seems like a big thing for where she is right now.

    Thank you in advance for your thoughts. Wendy and her sister are great kids and I want Wendy to keep the comfort with herself that she has so far!

    • omg Backpack Camp!

      I don’t have personal experience with this, but there are several episodes of the How to Be a Girl podcast that deals with this exact issue – it’s a really beautiful, sensitive, informative podcast made by a mom about having a transgender daughter, the daughter is 7 or 8. You or Wendy’s mom might find it helpful.

  27. Congratulations on starting your MFA, Vanessa!! That’s awesome!
    Also, if you’re looking for coffee alternatives, I recommend yerba mate if you haven’t tried it before (unless you also don’t like tea!). Depending on how it’s brewed, it can be pretty strong caffeine-wise, and it’s quite good cold (imo) so you can pack it up to carry around all day (or all night!) and drink at your own pace. You can also buy it bottled — I’ve only had the Guyaki brand, which comes in both very delicious flavors and a variety of caffeine levels. 🙂

    I currently live a few blocks away from where I went to elementary and high school (after having lived elsewhere for a few years). Breathing the same crisp fall air in the early mornings again has been causing me to have quite visceral memories of early fall mornings back in elementary school. I’ll get just a random flash of memory of the first day of third grade or of mornings shivering in the school yard before class starts. Fortunately, they’re not bad memories, since I love(d) the excitement of back to school season. And it makes me feel more in touch with the five senses!

    Of course, the downside of living down the street from the local elementary, middle, AND high school is that morning traffic is terrible! I don’t live far from the train station, but boy oh boy do I need to start budgeting more time to drive there in the mornings.

  28. VANESSA, I AM STARTING GRAD SCHOOL NOW TOO, I ALSO HATE THE TASTE OF COFFEE AND DO NOT EVER WANT TO DRINK IT, I AM CONFIDENT IN OUR ABILITY TO MAINTAIN THIS LIFESTYLE CHOICE THROUGHOUT!! we’re gonna do great xxx

  29. I started undergrad this year!! I’m already halfway through the year because I’m spending my first semester in Australia. I definitely feel like this would be a lot easier if I didn’t hate coffee, I had my first energy drink a couple nights again writing a paper about Marxism at three in the morning. My advice would be don’t do that.

  30. My eldest child just started at the same high school I went to. This is giving me feelings.

    I had an awful time at school. Lots of bullying, homophobic and otherwise. The start of my bipolar disorder. Undiagnosed dyslexia and dyspraxia. Feelings and crushes that I was constantly told were wrong. Uncomfortable clothes, then when I got the confidence to basically wear the boy uniform, more bullying.

    And now I’m sending my precious baby there. How can I be sure she will be ok, short of going with her and holding her hand?

    I’m in the UK, where children start high school at 11 and leave at 16. So my baby will be roaming about between classes for the first time, with people who are practically grown ups.

    Will I cause her to be bullied with my alternative lifestyle haircut and casual mentions of my sexuality? Do I need to stop declaring myself “just too gay” to do things?

    Also I feel old.

    • Its a whole different era! I went to high school in the 90s, maybe you did too? I think kids, and the environment, are so different now, even in pretty backwards places. Good luck with your feelings! I can’t imagine. My kiddos are very little still.

  31. Good luck with grad school!

    I just started looking into school in earnest. I really struggled getting my bachelor’s degree but I’m at a place now where a professional degree would give me the stability and income I need right now. I’m looking at either a bachelors or masters of nursing. My first bachelors was such a struggle because of untreated anxiety issues and I think I have the tools to deal with it in a way that’s acceptable to me now. But I’m not totally sure. I have a very tepid GPA and a lot of unsavory stuff on my transcript. It’s a miracle I got my degree, really. I’m dubious I’ll even get into an accelerated program (every program I’ve seen that caters to people who already have a bachelors is accelerated). But I’m laying the groundwork now. I really have to get paid more for my time! Or else it barely makes sense to work at all. I don’t plan on going back till next fall but getting prerequisites done and getting good grades on them will go a long way.

    • Thank you! And good luck to you as you begin your search for the right program for you. It can be really hard to take the step of even considering a big change, and I feel excited for you that you’re starting to lay the groundwork now. I’m lighting my Rosh Hashana/new moon candles tonight and I’ll be thinking of you when I set my intentions for my new year! <3

  32. Whew! School has just started for me and I’m already exhausted to be honest. Adults always say that high school is the best time of your life, but I feel like I would much rather go to work. At least I only have one more year and then off to a woman’s college! 🙂

  33. Back to school time has been a lot more stressful for my family than it should be, because the NYC public school system is bananas. Basically, my 4th grader is in a G&T program at a school outside of our district but my kindergartener didn’t qualify for G&T, and with the way the admissions priority works she is still on the waitlist for a place in a general education K class at her sister’s school. There are over a dozen families in the same boat and the school is trying to get funding to add another class so they can take everyone off the waitlist, but so far it hasn’t happened. We didn’t send our kindergartener to school at all last week and they are closed today & tomorrow for Rosh Hashana but it looks like we are going to have to send her to our zoned school starting on Wednesday. Which is a perfectly good school but the logistics of having kids in two different schools, having to arrange after school care, etc is tough. We’re still hopeful my older kid’s school will come through and be able to give the waitlisted kids a place, but it just sucks & is making our little one’s beginning of K not as happy as it should be for her.

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