Things are different now.
I no longer wake up gradually to the sound of the fall breeze rustling leaves outside my open window. I wake up to my children calling to each other from their beds.
I no longer sit reading for hours in the library. Instead, I read for a short 30 minutes before succumbing to sleep at the end of a long day filled with the needs of other people: my students, my children, my husband.
The season of the year is the same, but the season of life could not be more different.
I have come to cherish the season of fall. The crisp fall wind and sharp contrast of yellow leaves against blue sky are reassuring and invigorating.
When fall arrives in Hillsdale, I often find myself missing years gone by. I observe groups of students and I feel instantly transported back 10 years and if I only look around, I’ll see my own friends talking and laughing on their way to class or lunch. What happened? I wonder. Was I not just a student myself?
It’s not just me. Before we know it, we’ve been at our studies for months and winter is threatening. The students begin asking similar, nostalgic questions. Wasn’t it just summer? Where has the time gone?
I could spend countless words bemoaning the fact that I’m no longer a carefree student with no greater responsibility than reading, writing, and studying. Yes, it is hard to “adult;” it is hard to think of the needs of others first, all day, every day, and it is hard to know that a certain, wonderful time of your life is over. But, it is even more wonderful to be able to look back on that time with fondness while also embracing the time at hand. Reminiscing is sweetest when not tinged with regret.
A wise woman I know was the first to introduce me to the idea of “seasons of life,” and it has become a mantra for me as I wade through the diaper-laden, mess-filled years of parenting small children. There are seasons of life — seasons of exploration and learning, seasons of work and struggle, and seasons of rest.
The years of having children who cannot keep themselves alive and clean will not last forever. My years in college did not last forever. My children’s teenage years (thank heaven) will not last forever. And as happy or sad as I may be to see each of these seasons come and go, I must remember that they are just that: seasons. Ineffable, passing, uncountable spaces of time.
It is in vogue these days to hyperfocus on an idea or aspect of a thing as opposed to appreciating the totality of the thing itself. We know the seasons are fleeting and so we try to pigeonhole them. Case in point: pumpkin spice latte.
We should appreciate fall in its entirety, not just one specific, heavily marketed, hashtag-worthy part of it. Fall is not about a flavored drink. Nor is it about “perfect” photos of yellow leaves or an Instagram story from the Hillsdale County Fair. It’s the undefinable thing you feel when you look at the leaves, watch children on a fair ride, read with a cool breeze rustling your clothes, laugh with your friends on a hayride, and, yes, sip a perfectly spiced warm beverage.
It is easy to wish away something good that is coming and then to miss it unnecessarily when it’s gone. I should not be sad that my days as a Hillsdale College student are over. I should remember them with fondness and wish the same happiness on others. I should make new fall memories with my kids at the fair, instead of wishing all my college friends were here with me.
Fall is fleeting, but that’s the beauty of a season.
Maria Servold, Professor of Journalism