Now, December. It's a morning with a lowering grey sky, a morning with just enough chill to allow my breath to linger in a little puff. As a child in Florida, walking with my sisters to our school bus stop, I would huff away continuously, delighted by that rare (for Florida) reminder of cold weather. I'd be lying if I said I didn't prounce and puff about in these chilly mornings, even now, as I push into middle age. I've still not acclimated to the delight and gratitude that surge through me whenever I realize that I'm here, home, and able to experience the progression of life, happening in cycle with the season.
Fourteen years ago, around this time I hopped on the bus and rode it into campus for my last classes of my first semester of grad school. Then, I was 24--so young, although silly me, I didn't feel like it at the time. So certain about so much. That certainty is one of the things that dies with youth, I think--thank goodness. I knew I was loved and that I had a life partner who would stick by my side through thick and thin; I knew I was surrounded by fun, young, smart people, each of us enduring a similar grad school experience. I knew that there was so much still ahead of me, if only I could survive grad school.
And then this morning, I hopped on the bus and rode it into campus for my last class of the semester. Perhaps because it's cold and early, perhaps because we have become a population absorbed with our phones, the crowd on the bus was silent, each rider wrapped up in their own thoughts and world. Normally I'd be happy to immerse myself into social media, but this morning, I gazed out the window at the bare trees, the students and faculty hustling about, the grey limestone of the university buildings, the endless rhythms of academia expanding and contracting. I'm no longer 24 or even particularly young; the partner and friends I had have all moved on, although we are all, more or less, in touch. Graduations, jobs and careers, cross-country moves, marriages, divorces, even death have been our lot. Climate change, hope and change, recession and recovery, making America great again which made it worse again. It's like a Billy Joel song, without the music.
I'm older but not wiser, sadder, yet strangely, happier. Certainly more content. Hopefully able to keep things in perspective, to know when to fight, when to give something up as a bad show, when to stop when I'm ahead. Hopefully able to appreciate this fleeting life and its countless privileges, and hopefully able to embrace opportunities and adventures.
Today is the last class of the semester. Somehow, I survived (I mean, really, there was no somehow about it; it's not like I was actually going to not make it through)--at the expense of my social life, perhaps, but I'm enough of a natural hermit to put that shit on hold for a while. But three jobs simply require too much of my mental resources; it's difficult to devote all of my mental energy to one particular job at a time, to say nothing of the other facets of my life. It's not fair to anyone, so at the end of this semester, I'm indefinitely giving up teaching. I'm no longer in the first flush of youth, but I ain't old, either, and it doesn't make sense to me to keep plugging away, working so much, when there are places to go, people to meet, things to create, lessons to learn, winters to wallow in.
Now, December, for a moment. But not forever.