Oliver Gilan

Changing of the Seasons

I used to look upon the short, dark winter days of New York with dismay. The biting wind and dry air cuts through many layers of clothing and attacks any piece of exposed skin. The sky is dark when you wake up and dark when you leave the office. If it’s not dark you’re lucky to see the sun instead of a diffuse gray blanket of weak light. You’re lucky if you feel direct sunlight on your skin twice a month. That’s what I disliked the most about it all. The whole period of winter was depressing for me primarily because the sun is so far away.

I really internalized the idea today that I no longer feel this way. Instead I am welcoming the changing of the seasons and as I do I remember that I didn’t always fear the winter. When I was young I was excited for the new seasons and the changes they would bring. It felt as though every season lasted just long enough and the next one had a whole new way of life to shake up what had just become routine. Each season brought with it its own character and traditions and behaviors and mindsets.

Winter was for working hard; for bearing down and focusing. All the plans set during the turning of the year and the goals set in the previous year were to be executed on and chased. It was a time to grow physically stronger. It was a time for nature and society to throw its hurdles at me and for me to overcome them. I grew physically older in the winters.

Spring would roll around just as my body’s battery was running low and all that was dormant sprang to life again. The flowers would bloom, the trees would bring color back to a grayscale landscape, and animals would return and one of those animals would be me. Spring brought with it an air of hope and good spirits. It would feel as if my own consciousness would bloom along with the flowers and my battery drained from winter was recharged.

Summer followed shortly after with its freedom and time. In Summer I could move slower. I was unburdened by obligations of school and society so I could pause and take stock of what was around me. I would appreciate where I was and what I was doing and I could take that time to explore my curiosities and examine new sides of myself. It was a time where I grew mentally and emotionally.

Fall brought relief from the hot summer days and a time to connect with family both past and present. Cold dew-filled mornings served as a reminder that winter was coming and the easy times were ending but the holidays preparations for it easy. Dinners with family and friends brought me close to the people I love and the traditions of the holidays brought me close to my ancestors who went through those same traditions. Stories around the fireplace taught me the history of my parents and their parents. The shortening of the days and the falling of leaves was a stark reminder that nothing is permanent and that what matters is the ones we love and the the person we become.

And now the seasons still represent all of that I am simply the one who forgot. As I got older and my family became far more fragmented I forgot the annual traditions. As I started to work my summers became less free and I took less time to pause and slow down. As I began to experience serious illness and injury for the first time I forgot what it was like to have absolute faith in my body to carry me through the hard times. But none of my earlier understanding of the world came for free I just didn’t see all the work that went into crafting my environment. My parents put great effort into organizing large holiday gatherings and the natural schedule of school as well as family vacations provided natural moments for me to slow down and embrace my freedom. As I grow older I’m becoming more aware that such events are important to me for a quality life and that I must no longer rely solely on my parents to provide them. Instead the onus has fallen on myself and my siblings to bring our family together. It falls on me to carve out time for myself in the summers and to focus on my health and goals in the winter. The changing seasons reflect a world that is dynamic and alive and now it falls on me to live the type of life that reflects that. I believe I am finally beginning to do that.