Always a shift in gears, as the kids get ready for another school year and the weather starts to cool, I always find myself sliding into a nostalgic frame of mind. Most people reflect on the past year over the holidays in December – custom has convinced us that we are to reflect on our lives at the end of the year. But for me, the smell of a woodstove burning in the cold autumn air is what brings me to the point of reflection.
I love autumn. Never mind that my birthday is in September and I am a big believer in celebrating one’s birthday, but I tend to find myself thinking back to all the Septembers of my life – on all those first days of classes. The new haircuts and crisp new clothes. But this is the first fall that I am not prepping for classes (of my own of course). I am not rushing to find out what books I need and where the classrooms are. It is a strange feeling. Thankfully, having schoolage children allows me to continue to live our that nervousness vicariously through them.
Oddly, as August winds down, it is the first year in as many as I can remember that I am not feeling particularly nostalgic. I am not looking to the past with a sadness for what has past. As the sun pulls away slowly from the earth, (or the other way around), I find myself feeling like something is beginning. Without my ritual of class preperation, I notice that my responsibilites (academically) have shifted. It hit me hardest this summer – when I was writting my chapter. It was the first time that I had honestly felt that I could not slack off. I could not submit hurried work and accept a hit in my grades as a consequence. It made me realize that this – if I choose to continue with my PhD and an academic career (as I plan on doing) is how the rest of my life will be.
As fall approaches, I realize that I am busy as hell with things that will forward my ‘career’. Organizing what has become an international symposium on research methods; participating on a panel at the inaugral Canadian Game Studies Association conference; working on my thesis and applying to schools for my PhD. My ‘career’ has always seemed like a distant goal, one that I thought would never really come. For all the years my family had joked that I would be a ‘professional student’ I suppose somewhere inside of me, I had come to believe it.
So for the first time in my life, at 33 years old, the coming of fall feels like a step forward and not a wistful look back on my life. Stepping forward to a place that I have etched out for myself. Quite honestly, as scarry as it feels – its a great kind of scared!