The older I get the more I’ve come to realize that my most sacred relationships are with the people I can openly talk about my bowel movements with. I mean, shouldn't that be a prerequisite for every real friendship? As if I wasn’t having enough gastrointestinal issues in Canada, add in some traveller’s diarrhea into that mix, and it’s quite the time. I’ve come so far since my first day in China (yes, my bathroom schedule included), that it got me thinking about the month of September and how it's always been a period that has pushed me through change for as long as I can remember. It’s a bit of a whirlwind every year, and probably always will be. My love for September is a complicated one, and she knows it too. But, as I turn a year older and look back on this past year, I know I had to write her a love note, thanking her for shaking things up and keeping life fun. When I was celebrating my 23rd birthday in Chicago and writing 23 Things I Learned in 23 Years I never in a million years thought I’d be spending my next one on the other side of the globe. You see, that’s the thing with September. She swoops in at the end of the year, making you reflect on all that you've done while giving you a quick reset right before winter, when the summer high dies down.
As a child, September was always a bittersweet month. It was always the start of a new school year which meant getting use to a new teacher, new classroom, and sometimes leaving behind old routines with friend’s who've moved away. I had a friend named Cherry in elementary school who lived on the same floor as me. We lived all the way on the 17th floor of our apartment building. We would walk home together everyday. The minute the elevator doors opened and we had to say goodbye we'd yell “SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS" as the doors closed behind us. We would say it over and over again until we walked home and couldn’t hear each other from opposite ends of the corridor. Sometimes my grandma would walk me over to her place with my hamster cage in hand so we could get the hamsters to race. We'd build racetracks using sunflower seeds. We spent quite a few years of elementary together until her parents decided to move. I remember being so sad the following school year. Whenever the elevator doors opened on the 17th floor, it wasn't the same. You see, that’s the thing with September. She opens doors and friendships in the most authentic ways, but forces change so quickly that it becomes hard to keep up. Sometimes, just sometimes, you have to say goodbye just as authentically as you've said hello.
Growing up, every new skill I've gained was because September was coming, and things were about to change. I’m pretty sure I learned how to take the transit by myself because I was going to junior high and had to learn how to get there. I know these are little things, but in a way it was September that pushed me along, forcing me to learn without me ever realizing it. During junior high I was commuting quite a bit to get to school. My parents had decided to move homes in the middle of the school year and I somehow convinced them to let me continue at my old school. At the end of grade 9, I had to make a decision whether to move to a school closer to home. I was late almost everyday, I wasn’t taking school seriously, and things would have only gone downhill if I didn’t straighten up.
I really wasn’t a great student and skipped a lot of classes growing up. Oh the irony, now that I’m a teacher. In grade 10, I made my own decision to move closer to home. During the first few weeks I’d walk home for lunch everyday and watch CP24 because nothing else was on. I preferred going home for lunch because that meant avoiding small talk, and I hated nothing more. Being the new kid in high school is never fun and let me just tell you, girls are mean growing up. High school was a weird time for me, I’m sure it was for a lot of us. I remember experiencing my first ever anxiety attack in grade 10 Spanish on the second or third day of school.At the time, I didn’t know that's what it was. I remember putting my hand up to tell my teacher that I felt like I was going to faint. To that, my teacher replied “what do you want me to do about that?” No one in the class really cared to see how I was doing, I just remember putting my head down on the desk, waking up, and walking myself to the nurses office. You see, that’s the thing with September. From one September to the next, you come to realize that beginnings suck. Beginnings are uncomfortable. They can make you feel small and lonely and sad. Making small talk with your peers, finding your way, getting into the groove of things… you expect it to be exciting but it can be quite overrated when you think about it. You go through the small talk because you’re forced to, but overtime you find your people. September has taught me to keep my head up during the start of any transition. It’s easy to daydream about what a new experience will be like, but more often than not, things play out very differently compared to when it's dreamt up in your head. I mean, I never thought I'd be sitting at a local Pizza Hut in Shenzhen just so I could upload this blog post. I suppose I should have saw this coming with the Great Firewall of China and all. But hey, sometimes you gotta live and learn and September has always shown up bringing both of those things along with her.
For as long as I can remember, every September has been filled with firsts. Starting school at Western, meeting my lifelong friends, starting residence life, working at Apple, saying goodbye to residence life, leaving behind toxic relationships, starting teacher’s college, graduating teacher’s college and now.. living and teaching in China! I mean I know this stuff doesn’t just unfold in one single month but September has always given me the opportunity to try new things and step out of my comfort zone. I mean my love for September might be a little biased since it's my birthday month and all but there's no denying that all the best tv shows return in September. For that, she certainly deserves our thanks.
As a teacher, I’ve come to realize that September will always remain equally refreshing and exciting and exhausting all at once. New school, new students, new classroom, the whole shebang really. In August, I’m always complaining that September will be a shit-show but I wouldn't have her any other way.
This September,the most valuable lesson she's managed to teach me is that if you’re yearning for change, you probably really need it. If you want to plop yourself anywhere on the world, you can. If you’re curious enough to discover a certain place, you will. Last September, I was museum hopping in Chicago forcing J to take pictures of me in front of The Bean. This year, I’m sitting in an apartment in Shenzhen on the 31st floor looking out at mountains as my family sleeps for the day. September, you are the craziest chick I know, but I am so thankful you push me to be courageous and optimistic when all I want to do is crawl into bed. Of course you don't need a specific month to slow down or reflect on the change you may need but, September is a great time to put some plans into action and really rial things up for yourself. September, you have brought me the greatest of friends in the most randomest places and I’m so curious to see where this next year takes us. I remember my birthday last year so vividly. I was driving my brother in the trunk of my dad's SUV (looool) because he had just gotten back from a long trip and wanted to surprise my mom at work because she didn't know he was back yet. I picked my mom up right as it hit midnight. As my mom was wishing me a happy birthday, my brother jumped out of the trunk yelling "your sons home!" I remember her laughing and screaming all at the same time. I miss my family dearly, and it's been weird knowing I won't see them until a year later. This first month away from home has made me appreciate so many of the little things I was taking forgranted. So September, here's to feeding the wanderlust, being utterly confused, fighting through the chaos, and turning 24. Girl, let's do this thing!
A 24 year old Canadian living (& teaching) in Shenzhen, China.