By Stacy Turner
I always get a little sad this time of year, because September signifies the official end of summer. That said, as the school year begins, the nerd in me comes out because I also love the start of a new school year. My kids would tell you that it’s because I want them to go back to school, but that’s only partly true. Mostly, I love the endless possibilities that abound with new class schedules, new teachers, fancy school planners, and even the smell of new crayons. But still, the adventurer in me isn’t quite ready to give up on summer yet.
At the beginning of summer, we sit down as a family to make a master list of all the activities and events we’d like to accomplish during those blissfully less hectic, mostly sunny days. Simple things make the list, like visiting local ice cream stands, going to the beach or zoo, cookouts, picking berries, and seeing fireworks. Big things also make the list, like an out-of-state vacation, camping trip, sailing on the lake, even a visit to see a favorite NFL team’s preseason practice. And by the end of a successful summer, we’ve managed to cross off the majority of our summer to-dos.
But when September rolls around, it feels as if time has suddenly run out. We’ve had to readjust bedtimes and wake up times, and had to dig out the forgotten backpacks and figure out what shoes and clothes have been outgrown. The alarm clock takes a lead roll now, and that super fun to-do list must be exchanged for supply lists, homework assignments, and after-school activity schedules, followed closely by holiday planning lists and shopping lists galore. Even though the days are still sunny and warm, the sun sets earlier each night, and the evenings are cooler, a precursor of what’s to come.
Not that I have anything against autumn. I appreciate the harvests from gardens and orchards. I enjoy the crisp weather and the colorful leaves. I appreciate that our days are more structured, and that fall gives us all another opportunity to re-boot, reorganize, and re-energize. If you’re like me, you begin in January with grand plans of all you want to accomplish in the new year. By the time September rolls around, I realize just how far I’ve come (or not) on that list of goals. Sometimes, I need to admit that some goals set at the dawn of the year are no longer relevant as interests, information, and life in general have changed.
Enter September, with its aura of fresh starts and new beginnings. It reminds of some of the high-stakes games of backyard tag or hide-and-seek we played in my neighborhood growing up. When someone got closelined in the fading light on a barely visible sapling, they could holler “interference!” and get a do-over, avoiding the unseen pitfall. Just like grand plans made at the start of the year can’t account for things that may pop up like an unseen limb thwapping us in the arm, sometimes unexpected situations arise that make our best laid plans unattainable. Shouldn’t we, as adults, give ourselves the same consideration we enjoyed as children? Why can’t we get a do-over, too?
I plan to give myself a break this year, and I’m giving you permission to do it, too. So as our kids head off with new plans for a fresh new school year, let’s give ourselves permission to let go of the sting of unmet goals with a do-over and a fresh start as well. It may be the end of summer, but it can also be the start of something fresh and new. So here’s your official September do-over -- now go out and make the most of it!