Upon Graduating: When the World Goes Back to School (and I Don’t)

Herald of fall

It’s the sort of day that heralds fall, coming soon: cool winds, high, clear blue skies, butterflies gathering, for warmth and food, on mistflowers and cup plants. Tired leaves shimmer and shake on trees readying for winter, and the roses of sharon thrust their multilayered purple and delicate-petaled pink-and-white blooms defiantly up into air already tinged with the changing of seasons.

Monarch on the mistflowers.

It is time, time for the change of summer to fall, time for summer’s end, time for endings and beginnings. It is the first day of classes at my alma mater, the place I have so recently left. It is my brother S’s first day at the university to which he has transferred; E will start back soon enough. It is a different sort of new beginning for me–I continue to interview, and to prepare for this world outside academia–though, as has been pointed out to me, I too will return, sooner rather than later, to the academic world.

Despite my eventual return, however, it is a different sort of season than has been my wont. In previous years I have scanned books to prepare myself for the return, trying to get as much reading in beforehand as possible. (It is particularly important to me, as my dyslexia has a habit of slowing me down in strange and sometimes unpredictable ways.) This year, I am preparing for an interview, and taking notes for a book review, due quite soon. It is exciting, and unnerving, a plunge ahead into an unknown with which I have what seems to me, right now, only a passing acquaintance.

Another monarch, more mistflowers.

It has also been a reminder of community, both elsewhere–FLB and SLCL and their iron-clad community, and the neighborhood where I grew up, to which I return as often as possible–but also here, in the neighborhood where my family now lives. I have written before about the difficulty and loneliness, for me, of leaving the city and coming to the ‘burbs–and now, as I discover that there are people who remember me from my lonely high school years, and still recognize me, despite the fact that my hair is probably two or three feet shorter than it was back then1–it’s an amazing, beautiful thing, to know that people care, and cared.

Woodland sunflowers

Soon enough, the abundance of monarchs in my family’s yard will head south, winging towards México. My friends, so many of whom are heading back to classes, will once again be inundated with due dates and grading. The weather will turn considerably colder, heading towards winter, which may well be my favorite season, and which plays host to many of my earliest memories, from learning to ice skate on the pond on my grandparents’ farm to learning to ski in Jackson Park. By then, S will be more or less used to his new university; E will be back at the math books, and I will be doing something new. The wind, bringing in what we’ve been told is a cool front (I’m looking forward to it, in case there was any question), seems rather a perfect herald of the change of seasons and the spinning of the academic wheel.

Here’s to the newness, and the changing of the seasonal guard.

One gets to be sentimental occasionally.

Totally not making this up–my hair is bobbed now, and wish I could pull off Miss Phryne Fisher‘s badass bob because she is THE BEST, both on the printed page and on the small screen. But not that long ago my hair was midway down my thighs.

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