Back to school shopping is still the best, even when you’re 30

I am an (almost) 30-year-old grown-ass woman, and I’ve already started back to school shopping.

And I call it back-to-school shopping not because I’m going back to school, but because the prefix makes shopping sound better. Going back to school connotes purpose—it’s a fresh start. Despite the 20 and 30-degree temperatures that end up defining most of September, the idea of to school still manages to mark the moment that summer transitions into fall, and we can all stop being lazy and get on with our lives. Nobody lounges in parks when they’re in school—they’re too busy doing work and convincing themselves their new Five Star binder was the appropriate choice.

Which is why, years after I finished (and/or “left” school), I’m back to school shopping again. This year, autumn won’t be marked by the first cool-ish night or the official date on the calendar. (Nobody cares, Farmer’s Almanac!) This year, the day after Labour Day calls for autumn-induced celebration.

If you’re not a fan of summer (and even if you are, bear with me, you monster), you’re probably more than familiar with the feeling that’s come to define the last few weeks of August: exhaustion. Being too warm. Sweating too often. Nausea until you catch a breeze for 14 seconds (and then a swift return to said nausea when the breeze leaves, never to return). Also, that deep, unwavering sense of unproductivity. Because if you’re ready to bury yourself in sand to escape the temperatures we’re forced to exist in, the last thing you want to do is sit down and work.

But school (and or going back to it) connotes a new page. (Literally, if like me, you’ve bought a new planner.) It’s the fresh start we trick ourselves into thinking January 1 guarantees. Which is why shopping for this fresh start deserves more. At least in September, you don’t have to cover everything up with a coat.

I say this, of course, in an attempt to justify the month-long slow-shop I’ve embarked on to prepare myself for the day after Labour Day. At the beginning of August, I made a list of must-have back-to-school items (sensible shoes, a dress jacket, long-sleeved tops, a bag “that will last,” a “blazer that made me look like Roxy from The Kingsmen”), and began questing like my own mother did for me, back in the nineties—so: I was shopping with purpose. Which meant that “shopping” no longer felt like a waste of an afternoon or money. (Even though we all know it isn’t — that sentence was just for anyone who’s ever made us feel the way.) “Shopping” was now a part of my transition into a brand new year.

In the words of Candy Pratt Price, “September is the January of fashion: ‘This is when I change.’” And while our school days may be long behind us, there’s still a sense come September that it’s time to gear up and start all over again. And, since the world of academia justifies this mantra, it’s unfair to deprive ourselves of that same feeling once we enter the workforce. I mean, why shouldn’t we retool our wardrobes and sense of selves like everybody else? Elementary school students don’t even care about their new jeans — so pardon me, but I will get psyched over my heavily discounted new fall jacket. (It was 60% off, you guys.)

So all you summer-lovers who live in denial about the reality that “back to school” as we now know it brings: we’ve got it. We know it’s warm until October, that you’ll lounge in the park while the rest of us pretend not to be too warm in the sweater we insist on wearing, and we’re more than aware that we never went back to school because we’re grown-ass individuals with equally grown-ass jobs. But at least, come the top of the month, at least we’ll be overheating in pieces that we’ve carefully selected to help define who we’ve decided to become this year.

And that’s technically, is lesson in and of itself. Which means this whole “back to school” idea isn’t totally out of line, anyway.

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