Like Clockwork

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It’s not like leaves turning yellow and falling off of trees when it was still (technically) summer never happened to me when I was living in Ohio, but it was unusual to notice any widespread colour changes until at least the first days of October. One of the hardest adjustments I’ve had to make since moving to Wisconsin is just how much earlier that shift happens here, even though I’m not living that much farther north than I did before. Some of the trees on my campus shed a good portion of their leaves before the semester even starts, and even with a couple of days left to go before autumn officially arrives here, I can’t help but feel like we’ve been there for weeks now, even as I just went through a very summer-like day today in terms of weather, topped off by some righteous thunderstorms (complete with a tornado warning) earlier tonight.

I’ve mentioned before that I started developing seasonal depression in my early 20’s, and that depression usually hits its peak around this time of year. A lot of that has to do with painful associations from my early years with this particular change of seasons and the events I’ve had to endure around them, but I’ve never handled cold weather particularly well, and as beautiful as the landscapes in this part of Wisconsin are, it’s difficult to look at them as all those leaves turn yellow and fall away, just because it’s a reminder that a Wisconsin winter isn’t that far away. Even when I was able to stay in my apartment last autumn and winter due to the COVID-19 pandemic, every peek out of my bedroom window reminded me of just what was to come for me at some point, probably sooner rather than later, when I’d have to be out in the frigid weather with snow all around me.

As hard as I’ve worked to get back into the swing of things after returning to in-person teaching earlier this month, I can’t deny that I’m still struggling in some aspects of that, especially when it comes to energy. A combination of sleeplessness (likely caused by all the things on my mind) and fighting to get back in shape has resulted in me feeling drained far too often for my liking. I’m still managing to find the reserves of energy and focus I need when I’m teaching my students, but I’m feeling dead to the world most of the time I’m not in a classroom, and I haven’t been able to come up with a way to improve that here. When I think about what these next couple of months will be like, as I see all the decay around me and the weather gets colder — and, perhaps most importantly, I mark the fifth anniversary of Mom’s passing next month — I can’t help feeling like all the challenges I’ve been facing here will just keep getting more and more difficult.

I’m hoping that I can find some things in the coming weeks to help elevate my mood, but even the thunderstorms we just had tonight — something I usually enjoy, especially when I know that there might not be more storms near here for months — didn’t do much for me. My seasonal depression has passed on its own before, and I know it will again, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’ve still got so much on my plate right now that I’m not sure just how I’m supposed to try to make things better on my own. The warm weather hasn’t even left here, but I already find myself missing it. Maybe I’m just missing so much now — Mom, a pre-pandemic world, visiting my old haunts in Toledo — that it’s hard to think of what new things might help me feel better. The more time that passes without me coming up with answers, though, the harder it’s going to be for me to do that work. As crazy as the world has gotten recently, all those leaves on the ground aren’t going to turn back green and leap up onto the trees here.

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