Fall is my favorite season. I love it when the air gets crisp and clean, and washes away the fog of summer humidity. I love the way the light feels and looks — both cool and warm at the same time. I love sweaters, jeans and wool socks. I love it when it finally gets cold enough to bake and make soup. I love having the excuse to be cozy at home.
I also love the way the trees so graciously shed their leaves — offering them a last chance to show off, to explode with painful beauty, and then letting them go their own way, perhaps carried off by the wind, perhaps settling gently nearby. But this shedding, even though I love the beauty of it, is always a touch sad. While it is this amazing gift the trees give us — a memory of vivid color to hold with us through the greyness of winter — it is also, of course, the last gasp for the poor leaves themselves. And it is a clear reminder that another year is ending.
Today, I recognized in a very visceral way for me that another year had ended. I took a huge emotional leap and returned all of my library books to Very Important University. My library privileges have been revoked because I’m no longer registered as a student (I’m on leave to teach). While they allowed me to keep what I had already checked out, I’m not able to renew. A few of these books were starting to become overdue, and I just thought that maybe it was time to let them go. I thought that maybe, since it is the fall after all, it was time to just graciously shed these things that I have been carrying around for far too long. To let them fall away from me now.
It wasn’t that I was using them. In fact, some of them I’ve had checked out for a decade and haven’t cracked open in a couple of years at least — but it was their presence that was important. As long as I had a lot of books that had to do with my dissertation, then I was still a student. Since being a student was vital to my identity, the books were a close link to that sense of myself. As well, as long as I had this huge shelf-consuming batch of books, it meant that I was still “working” on this project — even if I wasn’t working on it, really.
Getting rid of them was hard — really hard. But, it was good. Now, to actually work on my dissertation, I actually have to WORK on it. I can’t use the fact that I have so many sources of other people’s knowledge in my nominal possession as an excuse for not using and writing up my OWN knowledge. I know I’ll need some of them again when I return to the dissertation in December. (I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I won’t really be able to do much until then.) And I’ve written down the titles. It turns out, I even had my own copies of some of them already. The others, I’ll get and use when I need them, one at a time — so that I actually read them in a targeted way for what I need them for — to help me advance my own argument. I’ll do this instead of having them all around me serving as an excuse not to work on my own argument because “before I write anything, I have to read all of these books…”
While it was hard to let them go, it was definitely the right thing to do. (And besides, I can always check the same ones out without due dates or fines at the new, smaller library!)