The Autumn of Our Lives

The autumn of our lives can be the best season ever. Be childlike forever!

There is such nostalgia in autumn. Back to school, new clothes, new friends, new supplies, new challenges, all remind me of autumns past. Now that the kids and grandkids are facing all of this, what keeps us older “kids” from experiencing and enjoying it all again?

We just returned from a family reunion at my sister’s home in beautiful Washington State. We began reminiscing about all the firsts that went along with our early back to school days. My sister was four years older so my memories were a bit different from hers. I had to walk two blocks to Clarksville Elementary School all by myself; that was scary for a six-year-old. Riding a big yellow bus in 3rd grade, and deciding what to wear on the first day of sixth grade (yes, I still remember… a plaid sailor dress,) were also educational milestones. The first time I drove my old red Chevy convertible to school my junior year is a great memory. A sad moment was when my parents left me as a freshman in college, where I didn’t know a soul, and began a new chapter. It was the first time I had ever truly been on my own; and I didn’t know anyone there. Everything was intimidating, and I had a roommate who didn’t like me.

Then, of all things, I became a teacher. Every autumn for the next thirty years would be filled with the smell of glue, posters to be hung, names to memorize, young lives to influence for eternity. Each of these new beginnings was exciting in its own way. I was on a life-long adventure and learning how to enjoy the journey no matter what the new experience.

Now that I am “retired” from the classroom, it is still exciting to see the first swirl of falling leaves, the yellow buses rolling past our house and back-to-school ads permeating the media. Even though I am no longer teaching, I still get excited about buying new outfits, stocking up on office supplies and exploring more new beginnings each year.

This year, why not do the same thing your children and grandchildren are doing? Try taking a new course at a local college or through the YMCA. Get a new physical walking or exercise program going. Adults are always needed to volunteer in schools. The local OASIS program would love for you to volunteer to help children learn to read.

Why not let this autumn be a new beginning for your personal growth as well? Do something you have always wanted to do but never took the time – paint, take piano lessons, travel, volunteer, make new friends. Life is so full of new beginnings, but we must take the initiative.

My 88-year-old Daddy and 86-year-old Mom just celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary at our family reunion in Spokane. Last year we took them on a family cruise for the big event of their 65th anniversary. After all these years, they are still embarking on firsts in their life as well. From nine to ninety, we are all still children at heart on this never-ending journey called Life. How fully and how joyfully we live it is entirely up to us.

So as fall signals a change for so many of us – as students, educators, parents or life-long learners, it’s easy at times to expect others (or ourselves) to be excited and ready to embrace each new chapter… but the reality is that change can be difficult at times. And sometimes what we expect to be a great adventure can be quite the challenge. That’s just life!

Whether you’re starting your freshman year, or if you never had a freshman year, or it’s been so long ago that you don’t remember it, I hope this autumn season will remind you that change is inevitable, but joy for the journey is optional!

Have grace with other’s around you in the various seasons and chapters of their lives. Offer encouragement to someone who is struggling, especially when it is family. I have loved spending time with my family more than ever. Seven of “us kids” hiked to the top of “Morry’s Mountain,” rode bikes, piled up in hammock, fed the deer, made a movie video of the kids, and decorated the tree house. My little niece Margy loves to play school and be the teacher; and I loved being her student! I will really be proud if she decides to become a teacher like her Aunt Deb!

I tell my parents every day how much I love and appreciate the fact that they have given me the best years of their life. We laugh louder, reminisce more and linger longer. Since my first day of kindergarten my parents have been teaching me that our last day of “school” can be just as joyous as our first! But it’s the autumns in between I cherish most.

Debra Peppers, a professional speaker for 25 years, was one of only five inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame upon her retirement from Lindbergh High School. A member of the National Speakers Association, she has traveled to all 50 states and 60 countries teaching others that if she can go from being a 250-pound high school dropout, to Teacher of the Year there is hope for every child and adult. For info, visit www.pepperseed.org

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