It’s hard to imagine I’d ever say I enjoy the first day of school.

Back when I was kid, I hated going back to school. I’ve said in many of my columns high school was the worst place to be. I was miserable; kids teased me; I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t wear the right clothes or say the right things or listen to the right music.

During the summer, I could be around only the people I chose. I had a few close friends and I got to enjoy their company over the summer. I got to spend some time with my dad who didn’t live in the same town and we had family vacations I always looked forward to.

Also as a young girl who is a romantic at heart, I often dreamed about having those summer romances that would end as soon as school started. (Of course that never happened, but the summer always seemed more special somehow.)

Now, though, I’d give anything to be going back to school next week.

I missed a lot of opportunities when I was in high school. I’ve also written many times, and I’ll say it again, I think I love covering high school sports so much now because I missed out on so much as a kid. I didn’t go to football games or the homecoming dance or play sports — except my small foray into volleyball that wasn’t super successful. I didn’t have school spirit.

But it’s all different now.

Something changed when I went to college and my education was for me and not something that was forced on me. I chose the classes I wanted to take; I picked the path I wanted to go down. Luckily in Tallapoosa County, a lot of high school kids are afforded a lot more opportunities than I had. There are chances to go into dual enrollment or the Edward Bell Career Technical Center. I know Benjamin Russell principal Dr. Anthony Wilkinson works extremely hard at making sure his students are ready for life, not just ready for their final exams.

But for me, I didn’t get a lot of those chances so when I went to college, it was my time to flourish. And school wasn’t easy for me. I may seem smart, but I work hard at it. I read all the time and when I was in school, I studied constantly. It never came easily to me. I had to switch schools midway through my high school career because I nearly flunked out.

In college, though, I started to fall in love with studying — probably because it took up so much of my time and because I was studying something I loved.

Now, I want to go back to school. I want another degree. I want to experience that first day of school with the new supplies and the just-opened books, and even though it may seem like work, it’s something I can appreciate a lot more now than when I was actually in school.

But the important thing is I still have teachers and friends and experiences I can look back on and smile and know I learned something from. I talk to only one friend from high school still, but she’s a lifelong friend and a person who no one will ever be able to replace.

And although I’m certain bullying happens in Tallapoosa County and everything isn’t butterflies and rainbows, we do have some really good students in this area. We also have great teachers, great principals and great motivators.

It’s important to remember even though it seems like a drag to wake up early and dress up nice and go to that first day of school, it’s just the next step in life. One day, it will be your last first day so have fun being a kid while you can.

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.