Is Fall A Clean Slate?

There’s something about fall that always seems like the promise of a new beginning. Far different from the anti-climactic feeling I get after New Year’s, when many people make resolutions to change their ways, fall is actually the time where I feel the most authentic, real chance at the exciting prospect of a reset.

I liken it to the first day of school, when I’d lay an outfit out on the bed and have this feeling that no matter what happened last year, no matter the fact that it would be the exact same grade and people, it would be a completely new and improved year. I by no means felt like a part of  the “in” crowd in high school. And middle school – as we all know – altogether sucked in terms of mean girls and even meaner boys. But no matter how much it had sucked the year before, and no matter how many harsh instant messages I’d received over the summer or sleepovers I hadn’t been invited to, that moment before the first day of school, when a new outfit from Old Navy was sitting on my bed, was an unadulterated one. I steadfastly believed that people and things would be totally different that year.

Well, they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result…The result was always the same; I was always disappointed. The same girls were mean, the same boys worshipped the same girls and were brutal to the ones they didn’t, and no one had changed or matured in the ways I had envisioned they would throughout the summer.

I think we all in some capacity experience a slight shudder when we look back at middle school and high school, and what’s great about being an adult is that more is in your control. You can choose to cut the toxic people out. You can choose to pick the significant other that’s right for you, and avoid the one that’s destructive. You can choose to avoid certain social circles altogether. What’s ironic is how often we don’t make those right choices for ourselves.

This is why for me, fall has become a time when I try to focus on things that are in my control, and think about what I haven’t changed that I’m totally capable of changing.

If I could talk to that eighth grader with the outfit on her bed, or any eighth grader for that matter, I’d say to get excited about things that you can make for yourself, change for yourself and open for yourself that year, rather than the things and people you have no control over.

It’s the same advice I told myself last week, on a seemingly first crisp day of fall, as I walked through Central Park with my dog and every single thing seemed possible, idealistic and perfect. It happens every year for me. It’s no different than that moment many years ago, and it’s no less naive. It’s not a bad thing: As a very sarcastic and pessimistic Manhattanite by nature, I like to enjoy this (rare) moment when it happens, but – at the same time – make sure to keep my expectations realistic by focusing on what’s actually in my wheelhouse.

I can choose to be less anxious or angry this year about the state of things, but that doesn’t mean how things are or what the news is will alter at all.

I can be more tempered this year about certain family members, friends or colleagues, and make the choice to not absorb everything – and realize their issues don’t have to affect me – but know that doesn’t mean those people will change.

I can work to create amazing content this year, and try to help in changing where media is headed, but understand that some people won’t move as fast as I want them to: Some won’t move at all.

I can go on runs, go to yoga, try Headspace and get impatient energy out in healthier ways, but know I am by nature an impatient person and am only capable of so much change in that capacity.

As we know, happiness is a conscious choice: It’s not something that just happens to you. Like a good relationship, it’s actually something you have to work at. That means making choices that help it come to fruition, rather than wishing things would change that we can’t control, attempting to change things we can’t, or giving up and accepting something that can and should change.

Besides Halloween and pumpkin picking and getting calls far too early from family about Thanksgiving plans, what is fall and “back to school” for you? This inquiring Potatohead would like to know…

31 thoughts on “Is Fall A Clean Slate?

  1. This was a really well written essay … and a great reminder to focus on only the things that are within your control! The point about having to work on
    happiness was also on point. I am sending this article to my daughter
    Who just started her first year at college. Her expectations of what college life should be
    Vs the reality (same as high school!! mean Girls, people are fake, people don’t care, people are Snarky …) is making her depressed. Meanwhile, I had encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone, and pursue opportunities within her major of media studies; within the first week she has an article in the paper and was an anchor on the college news! I was so happy for her! I said THIS is what will make you happy – keep focusing on yourself And literally put blinders on to everyone else’s snark and you will succeed!

    1. Thank you so much for such a thoughtful comment. I’m so happy I could create something you loved and shared with your daughter. She should know that we ALL have been there, and it sounds like she’s doing amazingly. Everything else is unimportant, and just noise! – Laura

  2. I thought this was such a great reminder of all of our possibilities!!! Probably best, however, to pick just one thing to make happen to improve life at a time – too much at once can feel like a chore and ultimately unattainable…

    1. Hi Mary! I totally agree, it’s one of the reasons why New Year’s frustrates me. Too many resolutions just leads to not doing any one in particular. One goal is a great way to start!

  3. I think you’re article was spot on! I’ve experienced many of the same feelings over the years.. Fall is an easy time to feel ready for a clean slate compared to January.; cold and dark doesn’t make it easy to feel or do anything!
    Much as I love summer and am always sad to see the long wonderful days end , fall is definitely a feeling of “new beginnings”. The only part I don’t like is when the holidays are rushed and we no sooner get out the sweaters and are ready for some fun tailgates, when Thanksgiving becomes prime with Christmas madness breathing down our backs!

  4. Loved opening my email this morning and reading this. Such an inspiring way to start my day and this beautiful Fall season! Very well written. Thank you for sharing these stories and beautiful thoughts 🙂

  5. I couldn’t agree more! I’ve always felt this way about fall, and the crisp air and leaves crunching under my feet always give me a feeling of promise and fresh opportunities!

  6. There is a certain energy about summer that is lovely and vibrant, but I crave the quiet/crisp fall mornings when you rush to find a sweatshirt and slowly steep a cup of tea. There are still splashes of warm sunlight peppered through the breeze and flickering light through the leaves (not yet the dark and cold of winter). There is hope and a reminder to stop the summer rush and soak in the fall quiet.

  7. The high school days that were supposed to be the best years of your life was missing here. I and most of us had s great memorable days of our life and up to now we still get in touch with each other. We still get together even quarterly as some of the are slowly going out of this world

  8. I love the “sarcastic and pessimistic Manhattanite” ! Sarcasm is a sign of intelligence, mostly. And I get the feeling you are actually “deep in there” what I like to call an optimistic realist. Reality is sort of sucking right now on many levels and in many facets of human existence. So, we have to protect ourselves, our minds, our bodies, our hearts, our souls. We must protect our spark, our magic, as it still contains the capacity to heal our world. Now, for my fall fun, forgive me, I have to talk about Halloween. I like to peruse costume websites for the “sexy” Halloween costumes. I confess I like to let a little sexy fly that night but get quite a laugh at the ridiculousness of the assortment. “Sexy taco”, was last year’s highlight. 🦇 🎃 👻

  9. This rang true with me. Fall always feels like a new start with me as well and probably because of the same reason you said. The memories of a new school year and new clothes, everything starting again. We have dog days of summer here in Texas so when the weather cools down a bit I can’t help but hit the refresh button. This was a great read! thanks!

    1. Thanks Lyndsay. Happy it’s cooled down a bit for you guys, and that you get that fall feeling. We’ll be jealous of your weather here in New York when winter hits!

  10. Fall is familiar scents and sounds – foot falls on dry colorful leaves, crunchy apples, sensing a neighbor’s fire place through the cool night air. Thank you for your lovely piece … and a hug for my daughter Lauren who shared it knowing we would read, and read again.

  11. Fall for me is about traditions. I lost both of my parents a few years ago, so I feel a lot of nostalgia during Fall. I love to honor my parents in small ways. Dad was always a scary movie buff so I love watching his faves like Alfred Hitchcock. Mom was a sweet soul who loved to cook pumpkin pies. So I indulge in a little pie or pumpkin spice during Fall to honor her. Campfires remind me of childhood and sitting by the fire with a marshmallow and telling ghost stories were a fun past time. I also love reading and it’s a wonderful time to slow down and just settle back with a good book before the Christmas rush begins.

    1. Letina, thank you so much for sharing, and I’m sorry for the loss of your parents. But I can’t tell you how much I appreciated this beautiful comment. It’s one of the reasons we love food so much here at The New Potato: Food is memories. And it sounds like you have some truly beautiful ones with your Mom, and as for your Dad, I am a huge fan of Hitchcock and my Dad brought me up watching those movies every Sunday night. Here’s to slowing down together before the Christmas rush, and thank you again for sharing such wonderful memories with us. We look forward to you continuing to. – Laura

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