Sept. 22, 2020
NACA Director of Finance & Operations
Fall brings so many changes, and not just the color of the leaves. It's back to school for both K-12 and higher education. New beginnings and opportunities to grow and learn are inspiring. Renewing connections with friends is exciting. But lately we've all learned the hard way that you never know what tomorrow will bring. What we have come to know as normal routine has now become awkward and unfamiliar. Some schools are remaining online. Others are bringing students, faculty and staff back onsite. Still others are trying a hybrid approach. Each option comes with a different set of protocols, none of which have had to be considered in most of our lifetimes. Amid the confusion it is natural to become anxious or depressed and to wonder if life will ever be the same.
You don't truly know how you will react to the unexpected until life throws you a curve ball. I'm sure, like me, most of you have been surprised at your own reaction to the altered lifestyle of living through a pandemic. But even though we were all caught off guard by the unexpected, knowing there are some things we can count on, things that are truly predictable, can offer a measure of comfort. One of the things we can be certain of is the path of the earth's orbit around the sun and the resulting change in seasons as the tilt of the earth on its axis shifts the sun's light slowly from north to south and back again. As we move from one season to another, there is certainty that the natural cycles will bring things that are familiar and reassuring.
September 22 is when we experience the fall, or autumnal equinox, a significant event in the earth's orbit around the sun. This is one of two days of the year when our sun is directly over the equator and the duration of light and dark on that day is more or less equal. The other day of the year this happens is the spring, or vernal equinox that occurs March 20.
While the equinoxes and the solstices (days with the longest and shortest amount of sunlight of the year) are not breaking news, reflecting on these normal and predictable events and others like them can help us to appreciate the things in our lives upon which we can depend in such uncertain and unpredictable circumstances. For me, this reflection creates the feeling of stability.
We know that this time of year in the northern hemisphere, deciduous plants and trees will change color and then lose their foliage, readying themselves for dormancy in the coming winter. And even though trick-or-treating and Halloween celebrations may look vastly different this year, as will gatherings for Thanksgiving, there will be pumpkin patches yielding jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pies, and apple trees bearing fruit for cider and apple pies. And who doesn't still feel awe at the sight of the harvest moon that shines so big and brightly over the landscape?
This year, as you face the challenges of navigating life in whatever capacity you find yourself, take some time to enjoy the normal activities that can be more fully enjoyed at this time of year. If you can get away, hiking mountain trails full of vibrant fall colors will be a break from four walls and routine, and it is one of few places where it's easy to stay safely distanced from others, breathe some fresh air and enjoy a recuperative encounter with nature.
With the cooler evening temperatures, walks in your neighborhood will help ward off the claustrophobic feeling of isolation indoors. And, even at a distance, greeting neighbors who may also be outside renews connections and helps fill some of the social void from months of cautious isolation.
When the autumnal equinox comes around, it's time to reorganize the closet for the change of seasonal wardrobe. It's time to pull up the summer annuals and plant fall flowers in the flower beds. Experiencing some of this type of normalcy associated with the season helps keep us centered.
With every change of season, there is a new feeling in the air and in the heart and mind. Autumn is full of traditions such as driving through the country to enjoy fall color, harvest festivals, back to school shopping and football games and tailgating. In the "new normal," many of these usual fall activities and celebrations may need to be altered for the sake of health and safety. But the earth will turn. Autumn will be followed by winter, spring and summer. By next year's autumnal equinox, hopefully each of our own lives will be back on its "axis" and we can enjoy some of the "old normal" again.
Brenda Baker is the director of finance and operations at the National Association for Campus Activities. Baker has dedicated her 40-year career to managing associations' financial resources and services.
Related Professional Competency: Professional Development