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The summer that wasn’t (or was it?)

As students flock back to campus, the days get shorter, the temperature drops, and leaves change colour.

The transition from summer to autumn is hurried and unjustified for many. Unlike spring, the poster child for growth, new beginnings, and the rebirth of ourselves and our surroundings, autumn signifies aging, even death. It reminds us that time is passing and that we are impermanent.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, autumn is now well-entrenched. Most of my friends don’t like the fall, but I relish it. I love the chance to wear layers, to watch as the leaves change from green to red to brown, and to know that, soon, there will be snow.

But it wasn’t until my girlfriend sent me an article from the New York Times that I realized autumn isn’t all about slowing down (or for me, looking forward to winter); it’s also about looking back and reflecting on the summer that was.

As a grad student, I don’t get my summers off like I did as an undergrad. Research doesn’t stop when the air conditioning comes on, and my thesis certainly wasn’t about to write itself while I sat on the beach all day.

For many, reflecting on the past few months isn’t so much an exercise in reminiscing about what was but what could have been.

Spring is a time for dreaming big, making plans, and stoking grand ambition.

So when and why does intention turn to regret so easily?

Last summer I climbed to the top of Kilimanjaro. This summer? Well, I had visions of backpacking Ireland or Turkey, of finishing my master’s degree, and learning how to dive. But then things came up, plans changed, I made excuses. Even simpler pleasures like attending music festivals or touring craft breweries didn’t pan out. I didn’t travel outside my home country. I crossed no items off my bucket list.

But that’s okay. Because in the end, my summer was exactly that: mine. I spent my time as I wanted to. I hiked through Algonquin Provincial Park for 6 days, I finished all my laboratory work, I picnicked and I played tennis. I even took a train to Montreal and biked drank my way through wine country.

It’s often easier to recall the things we plan to do but don’t over the things we do but don’t plan.

But that’s not the point. The point is there will be another summer. I don’t mean to say “Why do today, what you can do tomorrow?” As a struggling procrastinator, I know how dangerous that thinking can be.

What I do mean to say is never stop dreaming big, never stop making plans, and never stop stoking grand ambition.

Because while I didn’t go to Iceland this summer, I did book my ticket for next year.

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