The waning days of summer can be glorious, filled with beautiful sunlight and warmth -- or can be oppressive, delivering spirit-dampening heat and rain (depending on the year and on where you live). For students, those final summer days can mean loss: the pending loss of liberty before the start of school. But those days can also mean the upcoming annual opportunity to “begin again,” to clean the slate and start the year fresh—or at least fresher than the previous spring.
As adults, we can remember what it was like to feel the start of school creeping closer and closer in time. Maybe we were ready for the summer to end, or maybe we weren’t. Maybe we were excited about the new school year to start, or maybe we weren’t. But by the time we were done with schooling, the annual cycle of summer (liberty) and fall (start of school) has been imprinted on our psyches.
Even with school days behind us, for most adults the end of summer can be bittersweet. Typically, we no longer have whole summers of enjoyable liberty. The end of summer means loss of a different kind than when we were younger: loss of the opportunity to “begin again.” The end of summer for us is a reminder that life is no longer full of annual fresh starts; gone are the built-in opportunities to begin again each year.
Perhaps New Years’ resolutions are an attempt to create annual opportunities to begin again. Except they don't usually work out that way—usually resolutions are a list of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” that we rarely live up to.
Nevertheless, we can pause for a moment, and intentionally use the end of the summer as a time that we take stock of ourselves and figure out ways that we want to begin again:
- what kind of experiences do we want to have this year?
- what we want to learn this year? (Academic learning or knowledge about particular content? learning about people? learning a new skill? learning to improve an existing skill?)
- how do we want to challenge ourselves this year?
Once we have an idea of the ways we want to begin again, we need to figure out first how make the list realistic, and then how we can increase the likelihood of making those things happen. Unlike students, our “school year” is not set up for us—we must set it up ourselves.
Copyright 2010 by Robin S. Rosenberg. All rights reserved. Robin S. Rosenberg is a clinical psychologist. Her website is DrRobinRosenberg.com.