Autumn is my favorite season. My birthday is in the spring, Christmas is in the winter, and summers offer delicious and exotic diversions, but fall has an inexplicable magic that entrances me as if for the first time every year. But it isn’t the first time and it is the memory of other autumns that fill my heart with sweet nostalgia. It’s the flavors and the smells and the colors of the leaves and Halloween and most of all, it’s starting a new school year. A new year full of potential, new things to learn, people to meet, exciting possibilities that have not yet been smothered by disappointment.
The first day of school might be the most exciting day of the whole year.
This year was my last first day of school for a while, maybe for forever, and instead of encountering that mouth-watering taste of potential stirring that I savor, it tasted stale and old like crackers left open in the pantry for too long. So this is what it’s like to be a super-senior: like a bad white-cheddar Cheez-It.
I don’t know if the phenomenon of the super-senior is unique to BYU. I’m sure it is not, but the super seniors here are a product of 1) having too many classes to squeeze into too few semesters (that’s me) and 2) waiting around Provo for an eternal mate to show up–apparently they don’t make single, LDS folks anywhere else. I’ve taken for granted the Provo all-stars over the years, my friends that are in their 7th year of undergraduate study seemed to be feeling just fine about it. I’m in my first semester exceeding four years and I already feel like it’s high time I was gone.
My first day, I expected a day full of seeing my favorite people again and grounding myself in my life here again after a summer away. What I got was a day that went by in a confused and foreign blur, even the strangers seemed stranger. With a student body of tens of thousands, there are obviously many that I already didn’t know, but they seemed even more unfamiliar, somehow impossible to befriend or belong with. It felt like I’d grown out of this place, which is so unfair because I still have to be here for another year.
So many of the social staples of my life are gone now. Many of my best friends have moved on and away and though my life has repeatedly proved to me that when friends go, I always make fresh ones that manage to astonish me with joy anew, that felt somehow temporarily untrue. I am a person who thrives on constant change and new experience. I used to have anxiety dreams about the strip mall nearby where I grew up because there were stores inside I had never explored and I wanted to go discover them. I can intellectualize the fact that BYU too, still has new experiences to give to me, but emotionally it doesn’t feel true.
As one of many efforts to counter this feeling of general buzz kill, I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the details in my scripture reading and I came upon something in the testimony of Joseph Smith that I don’t think I have ever noticed before. He was describing the first night of visitations of the angel Moroni and he described his countenance as “truly like lightning.” I read it in the morning on about the third day of school and all day long I couldn’t stop puzzling about what that would look like or feel like to see a countenance that was “truly like lightning.”
I sleep very deeply. I’ve slept through most things you can think of [sleeping through] including a haunting in my room (true story), but the night that followed that day of puzzling, I was awakened prematurely by a thunderstorm. I laid there in bed with my eyes open and noticed with a groggy smile that every time lightning struck outside, it filled my room momentarily with brilliant, white light. I decided sometime between the bright flashes and the low rumbling that always followed moments later, that this was heavenly nudge.
It is time to reclaim my sense of wonder.
It is time to renew the sense of possibility that I used to perceive in everything and believe in potential even when my inner snap-judgment prone pessimist is intellectually sure that what we’re looking at here is a dried husk not a new bud. It is time to view my prolonged connection to this town as an opportunity rather than a tether. Think of all my favorite food places I’m not ready to leave behind. What about how lovely it is to be introduced to new ideas in a classroom? I’ve never even attended the BYU hip-hop club or figured out what that building on 5th and 5th that’s painted like an old movie theatre, actually is. There are things left for me here.
It is time to reclaim my sense of wonder.
It is not the conjuring up of a tendency that never existed. I am a person who has lived most of her life basking in the wonder she sees in the everyday details of existence and especially in coming to love the people around her. Staleness appears to me to be a sort of blindness: an inability to see what’s right in from of you. No matter how it looks, at no point has life ever actually been just shades of tired gray, especially when there are still people to love. I have always loved the particulars and the brilliant colors in unexpected places, so it is time that I started noticing them again.