You know September is the true start of the year.
You are coming out of summer, tan, light, a little bit wiser, thanks to the season’s inevitable absences and departures. Unlike your midwinter resolutions, fueled by festive regrets and iced with a holy fear of the passage of time, your September project is made with the boldness and composure of someone who has been driving with the windows down for weeks. You are emerging as one who has been among the living, and you are ready to spread the good news of how long a late summer evening can last.
Blame it on the book bags and binders, maybe, but September is a month for responsibilities, not resolutions. My own responsibilities take on the shapes of piles of laundry, an anonymous office building, a large dog with little shame, and a taller, kinder human. Until recently, they also took on the immense outline of a house, until the taller, kinder human and I sold it, took the dog with no shame, and moved to a place where we could not afford that kind of responsibility (#noregrets).
My other responsibility, the one I’ve been dodging for years, has no form. Because what is the shape of everything? It starts and ends the same way a memory does, the same way a song you heard keeps reminding you of what it is and isn’t and so on.
It’s terrifying to call it my responsibility.
Especially out loud, to you, because you might remember what I said and see me someday, pretending to be absorbed in other busy-ness and work, pretending I never said that.
And it’s nervewracking, because what have I done to earn this responsibility? And when someone asks me who made it mine, who said I could have this responsibility, what do I say? Teachers did. Positive feedback loop did. Ambition did. Illusion did. You did. Your questioning and skepticism about whether I could do it did. I did. I made it mine.
My responsibility does not come with the responsibility to make you like it or me, just as your responsibility does not include liking it or me, and beneath all of our responsibilities is the responsibility to say and do things that are kind and, if possible, true, and, when necessary, brave. Kind, true, brave, kind true brave, kindtruebrave I’ve been saying to myself now after decades of second guessing what to say and how to do, literally editing out whole words and conversations and relationships in order to not say or do the wrong ones.
For years I have hidden my responsibility behind my other responsibilities, the ones with shapes and addresses and finish lines, because it’s easy and because if no one knows what you are responsible for doing, no one will be disappointed when you don’t. Until my fear of being wrong outgrew my fear of not being who I am, which is (as my tall kind human can tell you but probably won’t) often wrong anyway.
So this September I am claiming responsibility. That fear and those doubts are mine. This autumn and this winter are mine. The early morning hours before my other responsibilities kick in are mine. The darkening evenings when everything has come to rest are mine. That freedom — one hand surfing on the wave of air outside the open car window — that’s mine too.