Thoughts on a New School Year

Alright, let’s get this straight. I am not happy to go back to school. It’s something I dread, then simply resign myself to, every August. I like to think that the sooner I go back to school, the sooner I’ll be done. I brace for it, it happens, and soon enough summer is nothing but a distant memory. Yesterday was my school’s open house, and while I didn’t go into it expecting much- meeting my teachers, seeing who I had classes with, collecting supplies lists- I came away from the experience with a different perspective on the new school year.

I find myself less ambivalent and possibly looking forward to this year. Yes, I still wish summer break was about five weeks longer, but considering that I have no say in the matter, I find that I have a more positive outlook on what this school year might bring. For the first time, I got to choose every single class I’m taking. I met all of my teachers and I like them all; they seem really cool and passionate about what they teach. An absurdity I noticed as I ran through my schedule is that all my teachers are male. I’ve never even had a majority of male teachers, so this alone makes for a new experience.

I realize that when school actually begins, a lot of work (and stress) comes with it. But hearing about the subjects I’m going to study, I feel excited just to be learning. For now, I am able to ignore the fact that the curriculums are designed to meet standards and prepare me for exams, and that good grades require hard work. For now, I am simply looking forward to absorbing new information and becoming a more knowledgeable person. Will this feeling wear off once the reality of school sets in and I become overwhelmed with coursework and grades?

I hope not. I am going to try to maintain an optimistic view of life this year, and that starts with school. I will work hard and do my best, but also try not to get bogged down with the insane amount of work that is high school. I am going to try. 

The Invention of Wings

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I’ll admit, I was largely skeptical when I picked this copy of The Invention of Wings off the shelf at my local Barnes & Noble in early June. Summer reading assignments had just been posted online, and Sue Monk Kidd’s newest novel was the book chosen for the English class I am taking in the fall. Inwardly, I groaned. Not having been a fan of The Secret Life of Bees, which I was required to read this past school year, I dreaded the last few days of summer break when I knew I’d have to sit down and read another of Kidd’s historical fiction novels set in the South. Though I did have a sliver of hope that I’d enjoy The Invention of Wings more than Kidd’s previous novel (the premise of this one was more appealing to me), I disliked The Secret Life of Bees so much that I put off reading it as long as possible.

You can imagine I was shocked to find myself hooked from the very first page.

This novel takes place over the course of 35 years. The story is told from dual perspectives: chapters alternate between the voice of Sarah, who comes from an aristocratic Charleston family, and the voice of Handful, a slave bestowed upon Sarah for her eleventh birthday. The novel is set in the 19th century before the Civil War. Most of the novel takes place in Charleston, though later parts of the novel document Sarah’s life in the North.

Both main characters were extremely realistic, and their individual- yet somehow always connected- plights made my heart ache. I loved Sarah’s brazen younger sister, Nina, who’s part in the story became bigger as the novel went on. There was a rawness to all of the characters; they were unfiltered, unidealized, making the story feel so real that half the time I thought I was reading a real diary and the other half I thought I was a character, too. Even the strongest, cruelest, and roughest characters, like Missus Grimké, Charlotte, and Denmark Vesey, had amazing moments of vulnerability. Reading this novel, I had the same feeling I think I would have if I found an incredibly old diary and read it. I was gripped from beginning to end, and when the book ended, I was strangely disappointed in a way I never expected to be. I wanted more.

The internal conflicts in this novel, especially within Sarah, set it apart. Also, seeing how much influence societal norms, rules, and expectations held over people in this time period really rattled me. Genuinely good people would turn away a friend, a family member, a person in desperate need, if they felt that helping them would hurt their social standing or reputation. It makes me so thankful that I don’t live in a strict, unforgiving society like the United States seemed to be in the 1800s.

The main two themes of conflict in The Invention of Wings are slavery and the subjugation of women. Both slaves and women were treated as property and servants. Both acted as homemakers, albeit in different ways. However, the forms of bondage used to hold both these groups differed tremendously. Slaves were bound by law to their owners, and people of the South used the Bible to justify slavery. Women were bound by society to predetermined fates, and were treated as pariah if they strayed from their traditional roles. The Bible was used to support the inferiority of women, too. As Handful once told Sarah, “My body might be a slave, but not my mind. For you, it’s the other way round.” Both groups suffered from the oppression they faced.

I really and truly learned a lot from this novel. I am thankful that it was required to read for school, because otherwise I would never have considered reading it. I think it’s a book that everyone should read, though I know not everyone will. I fully recommend it. And who knows, maybe I’ll even pick up Sue Monk Kidd’s next novel.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd | Goodreads

New Agenda

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Kate Spade 17-month ‘large’ agenda in “bookshelf”

One of my favorite parts of going back to school is getting a new agenda. I always feel the need to be on top of everything that needs to be done, and I organize my entire life with my planner. Over summer, I tend to forgo my agenda and make daily lists on post-it notes of what I need to do or remember. By August, I am yearning for my organized book of schedules, to-do lists, and random little notes and ideas. Every year, I try out a different type of agenda, and this year I decided to go with Kate Spade (last year was Lilly Pulitzer, the previous year was Bloom Daily Planner, and the year before that was an agenda I picked up at Office Depot). Each year, the planner I choose works even better than the last one, and I almost bought another Lilly planner this year. I loved the functionality and colorfulness of my Lilly planner, and I knew it would perfectly suit my needs for the upcoming school year. However, I felt the desire once again to try something new, mainly because Lilly Pulitzer and the preppiness the brand stands for is not at all my style.

Obviously, I needed an agenda that ran on an academic calendar (August-July), and I wanted one that resembled my Lilly agenda’s setup. I had admired the 2014 Kate Spade agendas and decided to look at the 2015 collection. I was immediately drawn to the bookshelf print: it’s colorful, quirky, and covered in books! The spirals are protected by a spine, it runs from August 2014 to December 2015, and the only main difference from my Lilly planner is there isn’t a separate extra section of monthly views at the front. This, I thought, I can work with.

This Kate Spade agenda is beautifully made and a pleasure to look at. I think I’ll be able to organize it similarly to last year’s agenda. The Kate Spade agendas feel durable, though I do have a few minor concerns. My most prominent worry is that if the inner gold foil lining comes undone from the cardboard exterior, the entire agenda will be rendered essentially useless. But hopefully, I will be able to justify the hefty price tag ($36) with an agenda that lasts all year, no issues. I’m crossing my fingers that I made the right choice.

Need an agenda?

Kate Spade here and here
Lilly Pulitzer here and here
Bloom Daily Planners here and here
May Designs here (I haven’t tried this brand before, but they make beautiful personalized notebooks and agendas for reasonable prices. Too small for my current needs, but maybe one day.)