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Back to school

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Nothing can ruin a summer vacation faster than these three little words - "Back to School!" Even now, 14 years since I walked out of my last exam, laughing maniacally, never to darken the doors of academia again, I still get a chill up my spine when commercials pop up on television or the August flyer arrives from Office Depot.

The only thing slightly worse than hearing those words is to imagine that they're being screamed at you by an evil clown, chasing after you with a blood-soaked Trapper Keeper.

Now that I'm older - at that advanced age where you say stupid things like "youth is wasted on the young" (though still shy of the "get off my lawn!" years) - I really do feel like I squandered a golden opportunity a long time ago. Squandered the crap out of it. Yes, I had fun, and a lot of it, but it doesn't last and living for the moment can play havoc with your future.

Why oh why was I in such a hurry to get out of high school? So I could move out of the house and pretend to be a real adult while I racked up a massive student loan? Then rush to graduate university so I could get an entry-level job somewhere to pay off a loan for four years of school over the next 10 years of my life?

If I had the opportunity to address a graduating class for a high school, here is what I would tell them: "Stay where you are. For as long as you can."

At my high school there was a huge emphasis on going to college or university, with something like 95 per cent of students moving on. To make that possible you quickly dropped the subjects you weren't very good at - never mind whether the information might be useful someday - so you could bring up your average and increase your chances of being accepted at a university (where you'd end up skipping about half your classes anyway).

And so I rushed it. In Ontario there used to be a Grade 13, but if you took a few extra courses here and there you could graduate in four-and-a-half years instead of five. I thought getting out early made me pretty smart, but now I realize that the smart thing would have been to hang out for another few years. My brother took what was known as a "victory lap" at my old school (he graduated in 5.5 years) and one guy we were sure was a Narc was on year eight when I graduated.

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