Fall color on campus

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