i know i’ve written about apples before here. well i write about apples every year at apple time because there’s very little i love more in this world than a perfect in-season apple fresh from the tree.
and here in MA you can get them from september through november. yes they are available all year round but i can always tell the difference between an apple that’s been waxed and sitting in cold storage for months and a fresh apple.
this year september is also a really, really big month for me. it’s the first september since 2005 that i haven’t gone back to school in some form or another. 2005-6 saw me taking math classes in night school; 2007 was my year in the UK, 2008-9 was my masters’ degree.
and now i’m done.
if you had asked my 23 year old self if i would ever seriously go back to school, i would have laughed in your face. but growing up and living in new york changed me a great deal. i realized that i was never going to make it more than i already had as a costumer, and it was time to move on. it took a while to get it together; i could have done it faster if i hadn’t been insecure about my intellectual and academic ability. but that was the point. i was insecure about those aspects of myself and so i had to go to school to prove to myself i could do it.
and i got there, eventually. i was proving myself to be a decent student, getting good grades and succeeding in my classes. forming good relationships with my professors and classmates, feeling like a valuable member of the team in group projects.
but it’s sort of ironic — in the absolute chaos and mess of my life this spring, i said goodbye to any sort of academic achievement worries and set my goal to barely passing. whatever it takes to get my degree, i thought to myself. and i went to my professors and told them i was barely hanging on and they were going to have to accept what i gave them and not harass me about it. they accepted this and supported me in doing what i had to do.
and you know what? my gpa only improved. i graduated with a solid A/A- average. which, now that i think about it, is what i basically always get in any class if i do my best and turn in my assignments mostly on time.
i think, after all these years, i can lay my insecurity to rest. in some ways i went to grad school to prove to myself that i could. it was really, really expensive, and i’m going to be paying it off for a long time. but i think i can say it was worth it. i am so happy to be sitting here in my room on an unexpected day off, writing this blog/journal and feeling really alive. feeling like i can be myself, not harboring a feeling of self-doubt about whether or not i can be one of the big kids, not feeling defensive and like i have to say ‘i know nothing in my life seems like it but i really am smart! my ideas and thoughts are worth listening to! really!’ of course going to school doesn’t automatically mean that, and certainly shouldn’t ever be a requirement for being taken seriously. many, many brilliant people never get formal schooling.
but it was something i had to do for myself. and all the way through i thought i couldn’t do it. all the way through i thought that it was probable that i would ultimately fail. maybe not fail out of school, but fail to make something to be proud of. i was wrong. i am proud of my accomplishment. i am proud of the papers i wrote. i am proud of the way i changed the environment of my school for the better, making it easier and safer to be queer there. and i am so incredibly proud of myself for graduating, and finally being able to close the door on that portion of my life. i don’t have to go back to school. this fall, i can put my work down and walk out the door and be free. i can read what i want to read. i can spend my evenings doing whatever i want and not feeling guilty.
so today is a day off, because of rosh hashanah, because i work part time for a jewish organization right now while i sort out the rest of my life. and last night i attended a truly beautiful gathering of progressive queers and jews and queer jews to celebrate the new year, and i was struck by how right it felt to be celebrating the turning of the year at harvest time. i brought apples (of course!) because to me the idea of eating apples and honey to bring sweetness to the year ahead seems more right than just about any other holiday tradition. maybe lighting candles at the winter solstice is another one of those supremely appropriate holiday moments.
happy new year, everyone. eat some apples if you live in the northeast, they don’t ever get better than right now. put some honey on them and think about how to make that sweetness last all year.