I love autumn. The cooler weather, the beautiful colors, school football. Summer’s too-hot, too-humid days and nights gave way right after Labor Day
to weeks of perfect weather here in New Jersey. Until this past week, the windows were open wide day and night. Now, the night air carries the scents of fallen leaves, ripe apples and lit fireplaces.
In Iowa, where I grew up, I associate this kind of weather with the start of the school year. For me, a new school year was not about the promise of learning or the threat of homework, but the expectations that come with a new beginning.
From unscuffed shoes and fresh notebooks to new teachers and new subjects, each school year was a chance to start over. I imagined myself studying harder and get all A’s. Discovering the secret to being more likeable and having more friends. Excelling at every project and leaving none unfinished. In short, I could be better.
Fancy dreams, mostly.
While I wished on the inside to be different, on the outside my school mates saw the same person as the year before. Time for diligent study became time for new experiences. I enjoyed my friends, but chose to play my flute, read a book, or while away some time in quiet contemplation.
Of course it isn’t the outward things that hold the key to our becoming different from what we are. It’s only our thoughts about those things and about ourselves that hold us back. In my journey through life, I’ve shifted my thinking to realize that I love doing what I enjoy, and if my friends want to share in it, that’s fine. I’ve discovered that anything is worth doing incompletely or even badly as long as it brings me enjoyment. Creative projects, unlike household responsibilities, are for my enjoyment and can be abandoned for long periods of time or even discarded outright.
You might say I’ve decided that life is not a contest.
Fall of course is not nature’s promise of beginning again, but her time of winding down, of drawing the growing time to a close and preparing for a long rest. Now I realize that there are no fresh beginnings, but when we stop holding ourselves back, we start a fresh ending.