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…