Seasons, a word with multiple meanings. On the most basic level, we use it to refer to the seasons of the year; metaphorically, we often refer to the seasons of our lives’; liturgical churches celebrate according to a calendar of seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Mardi Gras, Lent, Easter, Pentecost. I have always loved the concept of seasons, perhaps because the book that is still my favorite from childhood, The Wind in the Willows, is organized around the year’s round. It begins with spring cleaning as Mole pops out of his burrow and discovers the wider world, continues into late fall and the beginning of winter as Mole finds himself lost in the Wild Wood, circles round to Christmas, when the Mole rediscovers his old home, and cycles back into summer, the long days on the river, the little Otter’s encounter with the holy spirit of Earth, and Ratty’s autumn discontent as he notices his fellows stirring, preparing for the great migrations.
Today is my first day of “retirement” from the day job. I put the word “retirement” in quotes because (a) it is not so much a retirement as a transition and (b) I am not yet of “retirement age.” I am transitioning from working for an educational institution to working for myself, from commuting over four hours a day (since last October) to commuting from the bedroom upstairs to the computer room (and sometimes the porch) downstairs, from working with strict manuals from the Library of Congress to working with the airy wisps of creative thought, my own and that of my fellow writers.
The Ash Wednesday service from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer for the Episcopal Church (U.S.) contains a line that has always stuck in my head: “We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives.” It is this last item that always strikes me: impatience. Such a modern quality. Such an unexpected item for inclusion in a list of sins, yet one that surely even the holiest of persons has experienced at times, even if saintly enough to conceal its outward manifestations. As the stresses of a long commute, the attempts to juggle the day job with my editing clients and work on my own book, and frequent sleep deprivation mounted over the past year, I have felt myself giving way to impatience on a daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes continuous basis. Impatience—and its offspring, anger. (“Our anger at our own frustration,” as the Ash Wednesday service notes a couple of lines further.) Grouchy, bitchy, whatever you want to call it—too often, that has been my attitude.
In the past weeks, however, anger and impatience have finally given way to expectation, to joy, to hope. Instead of suppressing a scowl, I greet my colleagues with a genuine smile. I’m excited.
I have been fortunate in my workplace and colleagues; outside the commute, I have no cause for complaint. But I have known for years now a need to move on, and that desire has flamed in me with an urgency that has all too often burned with anger and impatience alongside the creative fires. I count myself fortunate to be able to follow my dreams at last. Like Mole, I’m ready to leave my little burrow and explore the wider world.