Summer 2017: A Season

Originally published 9/25/17.

You know you’re busy when you realize suddenly that an entire season has disappeared… Summer hasn’t really faded, in terms of weather, so I still haven’t fully accepted it’s gone. Nashville is still seeing daily highs in the 90s. But some leaves are starting to fall. And signs for pumpkin everything are popping up. And actual pumpkins. So yes, it’s technically and culturally autumn (which, by the way, is a word that can also mean “majestic,” though online dictionaries wouldn’t want you to know. I’m deep in the weeds of cramming for the GRE).

I want to take this moment to look back on my summer. Freelancing is inarguably challenging and stressful, but one of its most wonderful aspects is the flexibility it grants for travel. Since June 1st I:

  • Attended all 4 days of Bonnaroo
  • Spent 3 days in Austin with my family and best friend
  • Spent 3 days exploring Louisville
  • Spent 2 days in Boston and 3 in NYC, all in the same trip
  • Spent a week in Iceland!
  • Spent a weekend in Durham/Chapel Hill, 2 weekends at Lake Gaston, and 2 days in Tarboro
  • Hiked and camped in 4 TN state parks/recreation areas

Of course, I’ve also done a ton in Nashville over the summer, too: I’m most notably tied here by my ongoing contract with the wonderful startup company Health:Further, which executed a fantastic conference at the Music City Center the third week of August. In addition to my work with them and my regular work with WPLN, Nashville Post, Nashville Lifestyles, Our State, etc, I also have been hosting monthly dinners for The Dinner Party, plus a sometimes monthly, sometimes every-other-month book club for Slow Food Middle Tennessee. This summer I attended Nashville’s Pride Festival, Live on the Green music festival, Edwin Warner Full Moon Pickin’ Party, Frist Friday outdoor concerts, Creative Mornings inspirational talks, standup comedy at Zanie’s, literary events at Parnassus, UNC Alumni Club events, and various neighborhood art crawls. I managed to get 8 friends together from all over the country for a reunion in NC. I started working with a personal development coach to learn new techniques for positive thinking. I registered for the GRE and have stayed on track with studying. I was nominated to direct a brand-new nonprofit formed to streamline and expand the process of recruiting college students to do community-service summer internships in my hometown of Tarboro. I saw my work published nationally for the first time.

I list all these things not for external affirmation (knowing only family and a handful of random friends read this blog) but because I want to remember where my time went. Summer didn’t actually disappear. I ran it down. I sucked out all the marrow. I made myself leave the house when I didn’t always feel like it, and I lived my summer as fully as I could. Despite all these “accomplishments” I am listing for myself, it wasn’t what I would call a happy summer. This season of life, for many reasons, simply (or complexly?) isn’t a happy one. But I am proud of the choices I’ve made. I’m proud of the efforts I’ve made to contribute to this community I live in, and to the one I’m from. I’m grateful for what I receive, for how I benefit, from both those communities. Constantly I dwell on a quote I memorized during my Outward Bound trip the summer I was 18:

“What meaning and effect your experience here will have in your life only you will ultimately know. The responsibility, as always, is yours to make of it what you will.” -John Hurst

My time in Nashville might have been meaningless, if I didn’t decide I vehemently refuse to let it. I adamantly insist that every season of my life is meaningful. I seek meaning. I live fully. Not necessarily every day, certainly not every moment, but absolutely every season.

The only thing I really remember about my mom’s funeral is that we sang the Hymn of Promise:

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;

In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

 

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;

There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.

From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

 

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;

In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,

In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

 

I’m not so comforted by the resurrection message as I am by the first few lines. Nature is incomprehensible in “the infinite complexity and variety of its myriad components,” but the metaphor of a flower bulb, a cocoon, a seed, a season — those speak to me. They resonate in my “I escape to the woods when I don’t know what else to do” soul.

One of my favorite essays I’ve ever written is the introduction I wrote for this blog. “The Braeburn Backstory.”

“The tree: deeply rooted and newly sprouting, always reaching and growing. The seeds: giant potential in tiny form, hidden within. The core: healthy and strong, or secretly rotting with a deceptively flawless exterior,” I wrote of the ever-compelling apple metaphors.

And then I picked a particular apple to represent myself:

“Like its coloring, the Braeburn taste is multi-dimensional: deep, rich, and complex. I want the flavor of my life, like the apple I’ve chosen to represent me, to be multi-dimensional. I want such depth and richness to saturate my day-to-day living … What’s at the core? That’s a question I ask every day, in some form or another. Seeing beyond surface appearances, seeking deeper for the truth of things, searching for the true essence.”

Beyond the satisfaction of re-reading a sentiment still relevant in my day-to-day, I am deeply pleased that, at the core, I am still the same person I was at 19 (particularly because I do sometimes have difficulty relating to the choices that 19-year-old made). My key values have remained constant: intellectual curiosity, moral integrity, personal improvement, compassion for others. Intentional decision-making and habit-building. That’s how I try to live every day, every year, every season.

And now, I bid farewell to Summer 2017. I won’t miss it— and I’ll never regret it.

 

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