This morning I headed out my front door in suburban southeast PA, and I could see my breath. According to my dashboard, it was 52º F at 6:30am. If you are ever so unfortunate as to spend any length of time in my presence, you will know that I don’t like being hot at all, and that I would prefer that there be only two seasons: autumn and winter. The chilly air was quite invigorating, and I zipped up my fleece and rolled down the windows as I zipped along the winding roads out to 309.
I used to hate the autumn when I was young, because I loved playing hockey and wiffleball all summer but hated school. When I got to college and realized that I actually liked learning, I began to appreciate the other aspects of autumn. I love tossing the football in the backyard with friends; I love watching the World Series (unless, like last year, I detest both teams). I love the new school year, with fresh possibilities and undiscovered truths–welcome renewal of the mind after a hot, busy summer of work and travel.
This will be the first September in quite a long time that I will not be heading “back to school.” My dissertation proposal has been submitted, and now I’m working on a few other research projects. But there will be no first day of class, with new books, friends old and new, and a fresh GPA. There will be no “first day of school” photo of my wife, as there have been for the previous twenty-one Septembers: K-12, then five years of college, and finally three years as a teacher.
Remember when you first learned to ride a bike? Your dad ran alongside your bike as you got moving, and then you looked back for a second–and he was thirty feet behind you! I fear that formal education too often convinces us that we cannot learn without training wheels or a parent huffing and puffing beside us. My graduate education taught me how to study and love learning on my own, for its own sake–not simply as a means to an end. I hope and pray that I can “keep riding” sans training wheels in this next season of life.