A high school teacher once told me and a class of my peers to pay special attention to the leaves outside. He said this on a day in late August when we were starting our senior year. At the time, the leaves were still a beautiful green, although our eyes had adjusted to them over the summer months. He warned us that the leaves would soon turn a vibrant orange and fall from the trees. We looked at him blankly – we knew the cycle of the seasons by now. He finished by saying the next time we saw those leaves turn green, our lives would be changing; our high school careers would come to an end.
I can picture the look on our faces as we listened to this, not understanding why he was so deeply poetic on the first day of our senior year. Why was he trying to make us nostalgic when all we wanted to do was leave? Sure enough, though, the leaves changed and that chapter ended. Then the same thing happened while I was at Penn State. Then they changed again during my brief time in Philadelphia.
While this all may seem normal and irrelevant, as I walked outside today I realized that the breeze was just a bit chillier than it has been in months. Without fully noticing it, memories of pumpkin patches, leather boots and plaid shirts came to mind. All of a sudden, I felt calmer than I had in a while.
So I started to wonder about the seasons and why they are so important. After almost 25 years on this earth I should be completely used to the changing of the weather. I know what to expect. I know it will be very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. However, I welcome the changing of seasons every year as if I’m experiencing it for the first time.
The first time I can wear a spring jacket instead of a winter coat is metaphorically a sigh of relief; we made it through the harsh winter. The first day I need to wear shorts because it is just too hot for anything else, I feel playful and unruly, because summer is somehow easier and more rebellious. When autumn comes, I feel comforted, knowing that I will soon bring out my cozy sweaters and fleece-lined leggings and feel the cool breeze through my hair. Finally, winter will numb everything with its breath-taking beauty until you are so numb that you need spring again to thaw you out.
Time heals all; I truly believe it. As one season fades into another season, you find that these quick benchmarks, that sometimes seem so terribly long, are set in place to put a distance between you and your past. They are cathartic and magical; as human beings, if we sit too long we get antsy. As soon as one season makes us anxious, another one gently steps in and changes it up for us.
A year goes by so fast, but if I think about where I was last year and where I am now, it does not feel so fast. Time is funny that way. The people and events that I found important at this time last year have both changed and stayed the same. I have both changed and stayed the same.
Last winter brought me into a deep, dark depression that made me feel a whole lot like Alice stuck in a wonderland. I somehow found myself falling down a never-ending rabbit hole and when I woke up, all I could do was look around and take notice to rapid changes I did not understand. Noises were loud, people came and went, and meanwhile I felt completely mad, but no one was there to tell me the best people were. Finally, I am slowly but surely crawling out of the deep dark hole knowing in my own heart that the best people are mad – to me, that’s the only opinion that matters.
As much as spring elicits a promise of rebirth and life, somehow I feel autumn has taken my hand and led me forward more than any other season ever has. Maybe it is because I spent my first 22 years on earth starting a “brand new” school year with “brand new” clothes during fall and maybe for that exact reason it feels like a fresh start.
Walking outside today, I felt that fresh-start feeling and it wrapped itself around me tightly. It gave me a calmness I’ve been missing for a while. It’s cathartic in a way that my old drawn out past and all my regrets are soon going to die with the leaves and I will be able to start fresh; begin again. I can fill up the old rabbit hole and watch as it gets covered; first in leaves, then by snow. When springtime rolls around next year, the new patch of grass will cover up the spot so I won’t even notice it – it’ll just be a distant memory, built into my timeline, a reflection on a difficult time 2 winters ago. A subtle reminder that time heals all.