Back to School: Anxiety, Excitement, and Everything in Between

Oct 03, 2023 by Erin Yun
Graphic reads as a checklist of Fall Feels: Anxiety, Excitement, and Acceptance. Pippa Park is on the left and Erin Yun is on the right.

Ah, September. Every year, as the days grow steadily shorter and the weather finally becomes bearable, I think to myself: how the heck is it already almost fall? Summer always whizzes by in a hurry, leaving nothing behind but the scent of chlorine and the taste of watermelon popsicles as mementos. And although my primary school days are far behind me, at this point of the year, my thoughts inevitably drift toward going back to school. For both me and Pippa (the protagonist of my middle grade books Pippa Park Raises Her Game and Pippa Park Crush at First Sight), this was always an emotional time. From anxieties about making a good first-day impression to excitement about extracurriculars, here are three sentiments Pippa and I share the night before returning to school.  

Who will I sit with at lunch? Did I pick out the right outfit? What if my teachers don’t like me? Am I going to pass algebra? What happens if I trip while carrying a lunch tray in the cafeteria and accidentally douse the vice principal in chocolate milk?! 
The night before school started, I always stayed up impractically late, my mind buzzing with worries—some more reasonable than others. And even though it’s been almost a decade since I graduated from high school, I still have recurring dreams about the first day of school. Because Pippa is an overthinker like me, she shares my anxieties. And while she may know exactly what to wear on her first day (school uniforms will do that to you!), she still has plenty to stress over, like maintaining her math grades and keeping up appearances with her friend group, the Royals.

Although Pippa and I share plenty of anxieties about returning to school, we are also equally excited! When I was in middle school, I was excited about meeting potential crushes, joining fun new extracurriculars, and getting one step closer to college life. Meanwhile, Pippa is excited about spending more time with the Royals, getting the chance to shoot hoops on the Lakeview basketball team, and catching rare glimpses of her crush, Eliot. 
One thing we are both definitely not excited for? Waking up at 6:30 in the morning! 

Like most things in life, returning to school has its ups and downs. Some years, we end up with grumpy teachers or forget our supplies on the first day. Other years, we score the ideal locker space or make unexpected friends that last for life (here’s looking at you, Helen and Pippa!). So while both Pippa and I experience highs and lows at the thought of another long school year ahead, at the end of the day, we both know that no matter what lies ahead, we’ll forge forward . . . just as long as we don’t have to eat any mystery meat in the school cafeteria. That’s one back-to-school challenge that both of us would lose!