The seasons of self discovery

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By Sophia Pargas, Living Arts Editor

When I made the 1,500 mile move from Miami to Boston for college, I knew many invigorating changes were awaiting my arrival. 

I knew I was journeying to a beautiful city, one I spent countless years imagining could someday be my home. I knew I was going to an impassioned school, one filled with people of all walks of life from whom I craved knowledge and wisdom different from my own. I knew I was more excited than I had ever been before, and I could not wait to soak up every experience afforded to me in my time away. 

What I did not know, however, was I would soon find myself feeling as insignificant as one of the fallen leaves which riddled the unfamiliar city I now yearned for a place in. 

Growing up in Miami, the heart of the sunshine state, all I have ever known is summer. For my entire life, my childhood was a blur of constant warmth and endless light. Back home, I have an abundance of loving, warm-hearted family and friends who never allowed me to feel the loneliness of the cold, and a lifetime of blissful, bright memories which never allowed me to experience the uneasiness of the dark. Some may say I had the perfect upbringing. I would have to agree. 

In both the literal and metaphorical sense, my life has always been the perfect season: constant, unchanging, safe. 

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When it came time to choose a college and decide where my plunge into adulthood would take me, I insisted upon going somewhere that would force me out of my comfort zone . As much as I loved the constant support and protection I enjoyed throughout my eighteen years, I knew I would need to experience new things, people, and places to truly come to know myself. 

While this was an exhilarating thought, I did not realize how much I would miss the warmth of my youth once I came to know a place without it. Even more so, I could not anticipate how it would challenge everything I once thought I knew about myself. 

To become the girl I wanted to be, I would have to relinquish a part of the one I left behind at home. 

Soon after I made the long-awaited move to Boston, the adrenaline of the change slowly and painfully began to fade away. Just as the summer season was coming to an end and being rapidly replaced by fall, I felt home slipping further out of my grasp. Where I once had the warm summer air and the unrelenting sun to remind me of what I left behind, the new autumn chill and changing leaves were daunting indications that I was very far from anything I’ve ever known. 

Though I remember learning about the changing seasons at an early age, I had never experienced the supposed magic of crisp autumn air or the beauty of leaves turning from green to every marvelous shade of orange, red, and yellow. Much to my dismay, in the beginning, fall did not seem very magical to me at all. 

Where I should have seen beauty and brilliance, I saw death and sadness. I watched as once full and luscious trees died before my eyes, and felt the warmth drain from the air and be replaced by a frigidness that sent chills down my spine. 

Every fallen leaf reminded me of the full, vibrant palm trees I took for granted when I was home, the ones people would waste their vacation time to catch a glimpse of. Every chilly breeze reminded me of the cozy warmth I had never gone without, the one I enjoyed surrounded by the people I love and who love me back. 

I now found myself in a place where I had no support system and no security. I felt alone in ways I never did before, and I was struggling to acclimate to a city that was, in every way imaginable, the opposite of everything familiar and comfortable to me. I struggled to understand how I could be both girls, the one who stayed true to my old life and the one who found a place in the new life I was creating. 

It seemed the change of season was simply mocking the displacement I felt inside. 

It took a note from my uncle to open my eyes to all of the ways I should have been appreciating the beautiful possibilities around me. In a memory box of handwritten notes and pictures my mom had gathered from all of my friends and family for me to open when I missed home, he left me with a quote, “Every next level of your life will demand a different version of you.” 

As the world bloomed into a more beautiful version of itself around me, it now seemed unreasonable to think that I could not do the same. The leaves I despised, the trees I disdained, the sky I deplored—they were all trying to teach me the same lesson my uncle was: I needed to be changed by the differences around me, and to do it for the better. 

While I wish I could say this realization came easily and manifested itself quickly, it did not. The gloomy sky didn’t suddenly become blue, the autumn leaves didn’t instantly turn green, and the pain of missing summer, or the comfort it represented, didn’t swiftly go away for good. 

What it did do, however, was slowly begin to open my eyes to the happiness and growth I was missing out on as I compared everything and everyone to what I had left behind at home—including myself.

Just as the seasons transform one colored leaf and one dropped degree at a time, I discovered myself in tiny, incomprehensible ways. Slowly but ever so carefully, I began navigating my new life and coming to find a balance between the girl perfectly content with summer and the one insatiably eager to experience fall, and then winter, and then spring, and then do it all over again. 

I came to discover that, just as the seasons blossom over time, I could too. I could take a lesson from the world around me and evolve into something new, and do so both beautifully and gracefully. Where I once saw fall as a season of death and drear, I now came to understand it as one of new beginnings. 

Fall has taught me that growth is not an easy thing; nature is proof of this. The entire world becomes unrecognizable to remind us that we are meant to evolve, and that no season of ourselves should last forever. 

I came to know my own journey in the same regard, and I started by pinning the note from my uncle on my dorm room wall. Over time, I added more notes and pictures from home until I had made a collage that I looked at every day, a constant reminder of who I was and still wished to become. 

I began exploring the beautiful city I had dreamt of calling home, meeting the people I couldn’t wait to call friends, and soaking up the experiences I promised I would make my own. 

I came to know the transcendent beauty of Boston with fresh, glimmering, eager eyes, the same ones who had once scoured Google searches and blogs to soak up a life that could be. For the first time in a long time, I felt excited again, and I learned to see fall with the same love and adoration I had loved summer all my life.

One cool autumn morning as I trekked on my daily walk through Boston Common, cozy sweater on and fresh, hot apple cider in hand, I stopped to pick up a perfectly shaped red leaf from the ground. I was reminded of how insignificant it once made me feel, but empowered by the possibilities it inspired me to explore. I carefully took it to my dorm room where it made a home in the center of my collage and stayed for the remainder of my first year. 

While it may have seemed out of place beside the mementos of a childhood that now feels lifetimes away, it represented the way I wished to embody fall in every which way, to relentlessly become a different version of myself in any season of my life. It encapsulated the way I would miss what was gone but cherish what is new, and appreciate my own journey at any stage. 

Now, though my first-year dorm room is long-since packed up and the collage wall replaced by someone else’s, I still like to think that, thanks to fall, I know much more about myself than I did at this time last year. 

I now know I love drinking apple cider, and basking in perfect sunny autumn days when the breeze is cool and crisp, and stepping over brightly colored leaves on the Common ground just to hear the crunching noise they make as I do. I now know I can find the summer of my youth in any season by seeking out warmth in the times it gets cold, and finding small glimmers of light when there seem to be none. I now know that I can evolve by shedding old skins and dropping them to the ground like fallen leaves, reminders of a person who once was and the better one I can become. 

What I do know for sure, above all else, is that I will always work on embracing who I was, who I am, and who I am going to be, just as nature does with the rotation of the seasons––beautifully, enchantedly, and magically.