Back to School Season

I’m sure this is a combined result of our American educational system and growing up in relatively season-less southern California but, I’ve always associated autumn with newness.  A late summer in southern California in the 1980s was one long, stretched out yawn, interrupted by half hearted murmurs into the fan, frustrated contorted naps mapped onto the cool parts of the bedsheet, and hours in the yellow-lit musty local library (the only place with AC).  Summer is all late afternoon confusion and impossible insomnia.

Then? BAM! Fall! The air smelled different! The chill in the air!  Mom would get that frantic harried nervousness, rushing around to pick up school lists, supplies, uniforms.  We’d spend hours carefully picking the right Lisa Frank trapper keeper and bookbag for the year. How are you doing your hair for the first day of school? Who is in your class this year? Suddenly there were a hundred things to talk about and look forward to.  Autumn is all late morning coffee and the promise of growth and adventure. 

I didn’t leave California until I became an adult and aside from a painful post-baccalaureate stint in the Real World, I still haven’t left school.  As a consequence, I never really felt the urgency of New Years resolutions or understood the giddy newness of springtime.   For me, the new year has always and will always begin in September.

And I also think, well shit, there are only 4 months left in 2013?! And since I can’t really bring myself to reflect on the entire year so far, I try to remember what I did in August.  Did I learn anything? Do anything? Do I think I found meaningful things in my life? Did I accomplish anything?  Did I feel fulfilled?

On the surface, August seemed to be filled with social events (good thing for anti-social me).  I flew out to visit family and saw some friends I don’t usually see (plus an anime club).  It was also a month full of doctor visits and scouting out new study spots.  On top of that, I began to more aggressively sort out my own studying and productivity habits (on this blog) and testing out new writing systems to get the dissertation moving.  Meditation has become a daily necessity!  All in all, it was a month of “digesting” and centering – the perfect hibernation period to get ready for autumn.  

My favorite event from August was actually a really awful luncheon with a toxic, horrible classmate.  Lunch was just so awful and frustrating — it brought on a migraine and it was so hard to shake the crankiness and frustration I felt afterwards.   The classmate has some emotional disorders on top of an aggressive, entitled persona so she has alienated most people in the department.  However I had long made the effort to be kind to her, for the sake of being polite, and tried to give her the benefit of the doubt.  So we aren’t friends and we’re not enemies – just colleagues – so why did I spend my afternoon letting myself feel awful in her presence?  

At some point in lunch, I realized very clearly that I was wasting my time and energy letting myself become upset.  Why should I let anything into my life other than what brings me peace, knowledge, or love?  Why am I here and not, say, with my spouse or with a friend or reading a book or feeling invigorated by my work? It was a weirdly wonderful moment when this simple truth dawned on me: I was in total control of my time, my social obligations, and my emotions so I didn’t need to let myself be run down by anyone else.  


Since it is September, the month of new beginnings (haha), I want to make a new mantra:   “Show up.”

 I’ll write more about it next time.  In the meantime, it is time to me.di.taatte.

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