A few days ago, the 22nd of September, marked officially the first day of autumn. Although today seems to be pretty similar to yesterday, or any day last week or the week before when it was still summer, somehow there seems to be a difference between then and now, though not quite discernible at first sight. What is it?
Actually, there is more than one difference, according to whether you are a student or a worker, a child, an adolescent or an adult; whether you live in a tropical area like Hawaii, whether you are in Arizona, or you happen to live in Connecticut or Washington State. The change of seasons, in fact, announces itself in different ways according to the natural surroundings of where you live and what’s going on in your life.
There are also specific meanings attached to the change of seasons according to your idiosyncratic situation and your personality – do you like this time of the year, or do you feel sadness because it marks the end of the fun and lazy days of summer? – and your particular memories associated to this time of the year. Perhaps something dramatic or sad or something very exciting happened to you at the beginning of the fall season, and fall will forever be associated to this event for you.
Aside from the idiosyncratic meaning each of us may attach to this particular time of the year, there are some general attitudes most of us share. Most of these attitudes and expectations were transmitted to us via our culture – from its microcosm, our family, to the larger society. Most of these general attitudes associate fall with a time of new beginnings and serious endeavors. In this culture, since we were children, we were told that June is the beginning of vacation and September the beginning of the new school year. So, it is time to let go of being on vacation. Whatever we did during July and august now needs to be put aside and we need to re-focus on homework, prepare new goals, plans and directions; organize new schedules and set new priorities.
All these new beginnings create a surge of energy and offer new opportunities to look forward to, leading to new growth. Psychologically, we feel a renewed sense of purpose and, as the air gets crisper and the days shorten, we feel ready to take on new challenges. New prospects open up that generate motivations to work hard in order to succeed.
Seasons are good markers of change. They give us a sense of moving forward and introducing new things while at the same time maintaining consistency and continuity, in this way providing an ongoing narrative of our activities and experiences. The transition from one season to the next makes us feel like we are growing, moving to the next step, whatever that step is, and reminds us that change is the only reality that exists. If we flow with it, we can learn and grow. If we resist it, we get stuck in a time warp where we stagnate.
Flexibility toward change and openness about it afford us new experiences and opportunities. Fall is a time of excitement and preparation for the holidays ahead and of preparation for the quiet days of winter that follow.
So, welcome the new season with open arms and be receptive to what it has to offer. Like the falling leaves of this season, let’s shed what we no longer need so we can make room for the new. Enjoy the changes fall brings rather than fighting them. And, above all, be aware of the personal meanings you attach to this seasonal change and expand and multiply the joys it brings.
Daniela Roher PhD