Measuring Autumns

I measure my life in autumns. There's something about the first crisp breeze that brings nostalgia with it, pulling out the memories from the year before and dusting them off. Maybe it's because fall is reliably the same every year. It knocks down the leaves. It signals the start of football, of cooler days, and of sweeter drinks. It's the sameness of the season that allows me to measure the differences in everything else.

It was my senior year of high school when I realized that the first hint of autumn reminded me of something, or more specifically, of all of the autumns before it. Day by day, changes are hard to notice, but autumn by autumn, they become more clear. I could remember the person I was four seasons ago, and I knew that, one year from that moment, I would remember the person I was then. So I memorized the moment and it has stayed with me.

The cool air. Just the tiniest oasis in thick, muggy air. The promise of a new school year and all the adventures it could bring paired with an acute feeling of loss for the year that had passed. I was standing in a parking lot lit by stadium lights. I was gross. Sweaty. Holding a flute and a water jug and realizing that I could not picture my life 365 days from that moment. Day by day, I knew what my future held but viewed in giant leaps, my lack of permanency because acutely noticeable.

365 days from that moment, I would be at some unknown college with unknown friends. I would be taking unknown classes, filling my time with unknown hobbies. The only thing that was certain was that I wouldn't be there. I would never be there again.

That was the first autumn I measured.

Each autumn since has been the same crossroads of what's past and what's to come. Each fall is bittersweet and promising and comfortingly, the same. Now, like back then, I cannot imagine what my life will be like 365 days from this moment. I will be working some unknown job. I will have unknown friends. I will be helping unknown clients, living in an unknown place. The only thing that is certain is that I won't be here. I will never be here again.

Maybe that (along with a healthy dose of pumpkin spice) is what makes the moment so sweet.

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