Nah…That’s actually a quote from one of my favorite songs in the whole wide world, written and performed by one of my favorite people in the world.
But seriously, I never got off on a backpack sagging from the weight of crisp new textbooks, a fistful of freshly sharpened pencils and a heap of new 3-subject notebooks. I never got a thrill from stepping up into the chatter of the bus and seeing familiar faces with new braces. Instead, I got stomach aches about the amount of work that it all would require: getting myself out of bed each morning, choosing an outfit that was supposed to be cool, doing homework and inevitably having to play the social game. Come the second or third week of school, I would slip into that old, familiar coping mechanism we call autopilot. I would hide myself in giant turtlenecks and try to remain invisible until it was summer again.
For me, the fall always felt like a sort of assault on the peace and curiosity that I had cultivated throughout the summer. I would spend my summers at my own pace. I enjoyed having the time to climb high in the evergreen trees that flanked our house and write in my diaries. I enjoyed lazing around watching Cartoon Express and sipping a tall glass of double-strength Tang. I vividly remember the summer I learned to make my own French toast. I even have a scar from a drip of scalding butter on my thigh to prove it (oh, the irony of a permanent stamp of butter on your thighs).
I saw my friends when I wanted to see them and retreated to my room when I needed to recharge. Often to write essays and fiction that I would bind together with construction paper spines, to watch “Stealing Home” or “Shag” or to research things in my encyclopedias like “Jaqueline Kennedy” and “Billy the Kid.”
It was not until college that I glimpsed the joy of fall reconnection and traditions. The sheer geographical distance that separated me from my friends over the summers always had me longing to be back together with them. To share space, to swap summer war stories, to throw our ridiculous seasonal parties (we used to rent hot tubs four the quad in the dead of winter) and revel in whatever squad goals we had.
When I found myself in desk jobs years later, by the time fall came, I hardly noticed. Not due to some seasonal malaise. It was about being stressed out and completely on autopilot all of the time, all year long. Often, the fall came with a renewed sense of “hustle” in the workplace with the year winding down to a fiscal close, and I began to link those months with a sense of increased urgency which for me reared its head as outright anxiety. I regressed back to that longing to be invisible. And I would curse the torturous night sky when I left work each day.
So, this year, when I got the first flutter in my chest, I tried to ignore it. Big deal…summer’s over, days are shorter. The routine of back-to-school will be a welcome change after all this travel, I said to myself. And that school-day 5:50 a.m. wake up call is going to move sleep to the top of the priority list. Win-win.
But, privately, I still feel a sense of grief and a touch of heaviness from the pressures that lie ahead. Old habits die hard. I have to take a moment to grieve some of the simplest things:
- my first-ever flip-flop tan lines
- our unrivaled travel and live-music spree
- the calm of the lake, the roar of the sea
- a good run at the neighborhood pool
- such epic morning cuddles
- and, of course, the excuse of my good health to live out a completely gluttonous summer 2015
Wait just a second…hold the phone.
Is it possible this sense of sorrow about all these things is actually just some very muddy gratitude? That the things we lament are actually those that we can count ourselves lucky to have experienced?
Now, I am getting somewhere. That’s a huge shift for me. I’m inching toward closure. Inching toward the place where I can face the brisk air and bravely find the courage to say things like,
- “Good morning, I’ll have a pumpkin spice almond milk latte, please!”
- “Yes, I’ll join you for a freezing cold jog at 7 a.m. Sounds super fun!”
- “Aw, come on! They could’ve run the option!” (Hopefully no one notices I don’t even know what that means.)
So, do this with me…
Stop. Breathe. Hand to your heart. Moment of silence for summer…there it goes….
Now, sit up straight.
- find your headphones, get ’em on
- take a deep breath
- play the song
- look out your window or close your eyes
- think of all the things you’re sad to lose with the summer coming to a close
- grab a pen and jot them down
Alrighty then….now sit back and admire your Summer 2015 Gratitude List. Post it on your fridge or near your desk so you can rekindle those memories whenever you’re feeling cold.
Photo context: The boys enjoyed strawberry-ginger-lemonade Pleasant Pops on Sunday at the DuPont Farmer’s Market.