When I was seventeen, I joined the Federal German Police; this one in all its seriousness seemed more finite than continuing school or bartending for pocket-money and tips. After I graduated from Police Academy and patrolled the streets of Munich for a couple of years, the days felt meaningless and unending sort of like I signed my life away for this job I was not happy at. A friend told me with exasperation and compassion that, “This is not your whole life. This is just a season in your life. In a couple of years, we will say ‘Remember that weird time you worked for the German Police and you were not happy?'”
My friend was right. It was a season. Just a brief, informative season – just a blink of an eye, that ended up having much more significance than I could have predicted. It did not feel like a season at the time; it felt like the rest of my life. I think that is how most seasons feel while you are living (surviving?) them, and then your surroundings transform just as you are getting settled. The winter – to spring shift is slow but dramatic, bringing with it a change of heart and wardrobe. The fall to winter transition is quick, taking place the very minute Santa comes floating by for Christmas. The end of summer is slower. This time of year is precious to everyone. It belongs to the soft cotton part of your heart that never ages past ten years old. You can smell it – fresh pencil shavings have the same effect on me.
Fall is a grieving period. It just is. It is beautiful when the leaves change magically and they have their own dress code, but it is a season all about loss. Even if you are not sad about seeing summer go, fall is still heartbreaking, especially when the sky is grey, it rains and it starts getting colder. More rain sings through empty branches and leaves litter the ground like dusty garnets, waiting to be stuffed in sad brown garbage bags that sit patiently at the side of the curb.
When I was in my twenties, I heard that this is my time to explore. That this is my time to grow and experiment and push my limits. That if I stumble, it is a great sign and that it means I found my edge. My friend (I keep mentioning him lately on the blog because he has a pretty important place in my life for quite some time) said, “Well, you tried something and it did not work out, but now you know.” This insight has somewhat guided me. I have tried a bunch of jobs – jobs that I never thought I would be good at but I learned so much about myself, my interests, how much I am able to take and hidden abilities. Throughout this time, I have dated people I didn’t think would be good for me but some are still my friends and I talk to them occasionally. I have moved to cities I did not think fit my personality and, for the first time in my life found what feels like home in Ottawa, Canada. Yet, I still don’t have a job but I found a “new family” (I deeply wish my family in Germany would live closer or time-traveling would be a thing!!!!) who give me support, love and help me along my journey.
All too often, I was anxious to feel more settled, to have it figured out, to stop learning lessons or to just reap the benefits of those lessons learned. The most helpful way to get over this anxiety was to think about my life as a collection of seasons, rather than as individual steps. It’s tempting at this age to carry around a mental checklist of “Things an Adult Should Have at this Point” and a monthly report card with markings for each life stage. There were so many times I felt like I was sitting around waiting. So man times I was meandering around with a heavy heart, mourning the loss of a happier season without any idea what would come next, and when. I can see now that those were the seasons of loss, my own personal autumn. For now, I just will surrender to the bittersweet everyday life, getting back to my routine and so does my son. We have each other and deep, unconditional love.
Just a few more weeks and there will be yellow and red leaves everywhere. Then those leaves will fall and we are watching naked branches in harsh winds. Soon, there will be cookies made, our favorite TV shows start over, neatly adding regularity to our weeknight, and giving us something new to discuss. We will eat tacos on Friday and homemade pizza on Saturdays. We will all cuddle up on the couch in the living room with hot chocolate, wine, tea, books, and stories.
After that, we start looking forward to Halloween, then Christmas. What follows is a virtual coziness – a couple of lit candles, huddling indoors, fluffy socks and soft blankets. And before we know it, the crisp smell of snow fills the air reminding us that colder days are ahead for quite some more time before trees and flowers sprouting again. Then we say, “Spring has finally sprung” but does this tiny bud know about the power it possesses?