Taking Stock

Thursday evening I flipped on the news to see each channel reporting live from their booths at the Minnesota State Fair. I promptly turned off the TV and fled the room. Others celebrate the "Great Minnesota Get Together." I see it for what it truly is--the death knell of my summer.

According to the powers that be, the year ends December 31st. But my life has always been tied to the school calendar--first as a student, now as a teacher. Fall for me is a time of fresh starts and new beginnings. Summer then, particularly August, is a sort of ending. It is the time when I take stock of my life, an inventory where I look around and say this is what I have, where I've been, and where I'm going. But what I feel most this time of year is always the inexorable pull of the past, the weight of hurts unmended, friends unspoken, and opportunities lost. Such is the nature of endings.

But this year I remind myself that time always marches forward, and always, always there will be things that we could have done differently. There will be people who come in and out of our lives whether we want them to or not. There will be hurts we cannot heal. And there will be chances lost. Truly, we are always in some sort of shambles; the beauty comes from the way in which we piece it all back together, creating the mosaic of our lives.

Despite the inevitable melancholy that always surrounds endings for me, I am ready for a new year. I feel more grounded in myself than I have months. I am ready to leave behind this hazy, crazy period and move more into the life I have created for myself, leaving much foolishness and uncertainty to stay in the hot, languid days of summer. I am ready to move forward, a step at a time. Because truly, that is surviving and thriving. It is not being afraid to cry and laugh all in the same breath--something my best friend taught me how to do years ago, and something I have rediscovered thanks to her in the past few weeks. It is not being afraid to send an email to a friend two states away saying, quite simply, "I'm blue." And most importantly, it is confronting the good and bad of your life and laying ownership to it all.

As I sit here now, my last true day of summer--the last day of this year for me--I sit here listening to my montage of year-end music in the dim light of my table lamp as the wind rushes through the window and leaves rustle in a seductively autumnal way. I see my year in its entirety: walking the streets of New York City with my husband, spending lazy beach-filled days with my sister and nieces, welcoming my friend's daughter into the world, saying goodbye to friends as they move away, laughing with students (and occasionally hiding from them), holding my mother's hand during the long wait of my father's open-heart surgery. I see all of it--the good and the bad, the hugs and fights and painful goodbyes; all of it is tinged with love. What more can I ask for? And so I feel my grip on last year easing.

Perhaps now, as I pass through one year and greet a new one, I can take to heart the words I hear on my iPod: "There is reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last." Not because last year was bad, but because that thought it what keeps us moving forward, trying harder. It is the thought that makes me excited to kick off another year on Monday, that makes me smile when I think of the 180 students who will fill my classroom and my life in a little over a week. It's the thought that, despite the sadness of endings, makes me smile and go confidently into tomorrow.

And I'd really like to reconcile with the Minnesota State Fair.

Because I do love corndogs.

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