Over the course of two days, it’s abruptly turned from sundress-and-Birkenstocks weather to sweater-and-sneakers season. The change hasn’t been entirely unwelcome; there’s only so much late-September sweating I can do before agonizing over global warming starts to interfere with my enjoyment of the sunshine. It has, however, resulted in some interesting-to-me (almost definitely boring-to-you) reflections. I will now indulge myself by sharing them.
So yes. For whatever reason, this abrupt shift to autumn has made me think too much about things that aren’t all that important, in the grand scheme of this miracle/slog we call life. In this case, my ruminating has led me in mostly positive directions. This, my friends, is progress of the best kind.
Before proceeding, lemme backtrack for a second.
Summer came late to my Canadian city. I’ll admit that I wasn’t incredibly disappointed that July and August were disappointing months here, meteorologically speaking, since I spent much of them in a hospital bed or indoors recovering from being in a hospital bed and/or adjusting to new meds and too miserable to emerge from my apartment. I’ll do some digging around for the precise German term to describe “being glad that it is unnecessary to add ‘I wish I were outside enjoying the hot temps and dazzling sunshine’ to one’s current why-the-world-is-horrible-and-unfair list,” which surely exists; for now, suffice it to say that the near-daily rain and spring-like temperatures made it a little easier to convince my brain, which is usually plagued by FOMO (that’s “Fear of Missing Out,” Mom, in case you forgot), that it wasn’t Missing Out in the summer department.
September, though, as well as being my best month in terms of my health in … maybe forever (slight hyperbole), was, until Wednesday, also very, very hot. Almost too hot. And sunny. And almost rainless. The convergence of not being in the hospital with this belated, glorious summer was incredible for the aforementioned, pretty obvious reasons, but also for other, not-yet-mentioned, less evident ones.
This year, for example, I had no “feelings” about not participating in the back-to-school rituals that are part and parcel of academia. It’s been a long time since I made the complicated decision not to pursue an academic career, realizing that trying to obtain and hold down a tenure-track position would require sacrifices to my health that I couldn’t responsibly make. I won’t say, however, that I’ve completely come to terms with my choice, even if I’m unwavering in it. Indeed, I’ll confess that I was a little bitter last September as I waited for surgery, stuck in a sort of limbo, and watched former colleagues start teaching new classes. Maybe it was the temps that were high enough that I could pretend that it was still August, or maybe it was that I was distracted by the evolution of plans for my upcoming VNS surgery, or maybe it was that I’ve been busy with other stuff. Whatever the reason, September 2017 flew on by without me caring that I wasn’t organizing myself for a fresh academic year.
Sure, I have plenty of moments coloured by self-doubt, worries about the future, questions about what I’ll do when I’m well enough to work again, etc. I think it’s a good sign, though, that I’m starting to feel a little more detached from what I’m beginning to more fully accept my future won’t hold. Gradually recognizing that rather than missing out by not using my PhD for what I originally intended to, I’m instead opting for something different and better for me is making great things, like a freak-out-free* September, possible.
That, and the sun. The sun had a lot to do with it.
*Freak-out-free as far as my detachment from academia goes, that is; I can only ask so much of myself.