Struggling with September Sadness

It’s not been an easy month. For a professor, September never is. For me, it’s been extra tough. Exciting and good in some ways, but tough in others.

I moved departments, from Philosophy to Women’s Studies and Feminist Research, which is great but I’m teaching two brand new classes. One class is about feminism and fashion and it’s got 120 students in it. The other, feminism and death, is a 3rd year class with a more reasonable 25.

Two of my kids also moved out and on to new adventures. One’s at college not too far away but the other is on the other coast. Very far away. (Luckily we did get to ride bikes together recently!)

So in addition to making five trips between my home and the not too far away town where my son has settled, to look for apartments, sign a lease, and move stuff, I’ve also had three big work trips three weekends in a row. That’s been a bit of a theme around here. Sandi, Catherine, Tracy, and me have all been on the move and blogging about it.

Ditto my blogging and cycling and knitting friend the yarn harlot. Hi Stephanie! I keep thinking we’ll meet in a departure lounge somewhere sometime.

The good news? Really exciting, stimulating stuff. I’ve learned a lot. The most recent workshop looked at arguments against mass incarceration and alternatives to prison as punishment. My paper was on the cost to children and families when a parent goes to jail. When we examine costs and benefits of different methods of punishment, children tend to get left out. Looks like I’ve also secured my Air Canada Altitude status for next year with this recent round of travel. And I’ve been to fun places, New Orleans, Vancouver, New York, and Boston.

The bad news? Yawn. Jet lag doesn’t much bother me and I sleep well on planes (see Sleep is my superpower!) but there’s all the extra life stuff that needs to get done when I come home. Academic conferences tend to be on weekends but it’s not like there are days off when we get back. Also, rush, rush, rush. I’m behind with everything. Teaching, grading, taxes, you name it, I haven’t done it. Especially exercise.

I didn’t get to choose my hotel for any of these trips and there weren’t really gyms to speak of. Just small rooms with three or four treadmills and a handful of dumbbells. I could have done it Arnold style but I was also just too tired. These were some very long days.

September is often a struggle when it comes to exercise. I’ve written about it here, On back to school and starting as you mean to continue, and here, Real life fitness, or why I’m dog jogging. And I know that getting more of it–spending time moving, in the outdoors–is one of the things guaranteed to boost my mood.

But there’s something deeper in my dislike of autumn, connecting it thoughts of death and how short life really is. Blink and you miss it.  Summer and life, alike. Of course it doesn’t help that I pretty much forgot to take vacation this summer, just the bike rally (not really holiday) and a couple of weekends of canoe camping. Fall’s changing leaves serve as reminders of mortality. I teach courses on death. Thinking about it come term time is an occupational hazard. There also have been more deaths in my life recently. Old friends and family both.

The other day I shared this quote on Facebook.


I also reread this piece The Summer That Never Was which also connects end of summer melancholy with thoughts of mortality.

I suspect that the way I feel now, at summer’s end, is about how I’ll feel at the end of my life, assuming I have time and mind enough to reflect: bewildered by how unexpectedly everything turned out, regretful about all the things I didn’t get around to, clutching the handful of friends and funny stories I’ve amassed, and wondering where it all went. And I’ll probably still be evading the same truth I’m evading now: that the life I ended up with, much as I complain about it, was pretty much the one I chose. And my dissatisfactions with it are really with my own character, with my hesitation and timidity.

How about you? Do you struggle with the switch from summer to fall? Is fall a happy time of year or a sad time of year for you? 

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7 thoughts on “Struggling with September Sadness

  1. As an Adjunct, fall brings me back to work and a sense of purpose outside of being Mom. Plus, my birthday is in fall and it also means whether I can actually run in!

    On a side note….aren’t there some prisons around the world that house the whole family unit together and the non incarcerated members get to come and go as they please? Or did I dream that scenario up?

  2. Me, too, definitely. Especially since I had children – every September, the start of a new school year reminds me that they are getting older, as they start new grades, new schools.

    And there’s always a sense of loss when the summer ends and not even a quarter of the grand things I had planned at the start of it happened, as I’m forcibly reminded that their childhood is flying by and I’m running out of time to do those things I was always going to do with my kids.

  3. I like September, because it does feel like All the New Things… and yet I also have that same sense of compression. The changing weather and the shorter days does send me inside and I have to work harder to want to move my body… plus the work just fills up the time in a new way. As the light in the day gets less I want longer days to do all the things that I’m introspecting about.

  4. I always have high expectations for September and a return to routine. But, honestly, it actually feels more like a chore than a relief.
    Missing this spring and summer to our evacuation and living in calgary made this September even worse.

    I’m trying to find my grounding. Settling in.


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