On fear

31 October 2014

Fall has always signaled new beginnings in my life. It may not seem the most appropriate season to carry that significance, but, from the regular start of a fresh school year to the birth of my daughter towards the end of summer to the coincidence of several consecutive jobs starting in Septembers, fall is now inextricable from the idea of something new.

The older I get, though, the more I’m aware that the new comes at the cost of putting away the old, and so fall is increasingly also wrapped up in nostalgia. Which is an unfamiliar feeling to me. I had a far from an idyllic childhood, a painful adolescence and a stressful stretch of twenties. I have never wanted the past back. I have never missed much of what I moved away from. But, you get older, and life gets more complicated, and it gets more nuanced, and you start to see shades of what you didn’t know you had. Or, at least, you learn how to miss missed opportunities.

At the root of all this is another emotion tied up in fall—fear. I’m convinced the tradition of Halloween didn’t spring up when it did by accident. There’s something inherently magical and terrifying about the transformation of these seasons. It naturally breeds the fear of seeing the daylight wane, the trees turn stark and the temperature drop. The fear that the harvest reaped won’t be enough to carry through the winter. The fear that follows after the brief excitement of something new, because something new is something unknown, and it’s cold and dark out there.

As humans do, we turn fear into a festival. We give it rules, we trim its fangs. We make it into ritual, so we can believe that, if we do it right, we’ll get the same results that we did before. We’ll survive another winter.

The cycle affirms the deepest myths we know. Birth, death, age, hope, fear. Waiting in the promise of resurrection. There really isn’t much to do about it but be aware of it, and not be afraid of something new despite the uncertainty, because it will all come back around to where it started in the end.


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