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Thinking About The September Of My Years

The Journey Inward


Last updated 9/25/2019 at 4:57pm

Pumpkins and apples are plentiful. The air is slightly crisp. The sun feels different. School busses drop off children at school or home. School supplies line the aisles of Walmart. A few leaves are changing. Summer light at the end of the day is fading.

It’s September. As a boy that meant school was starting. So, my mother would take me to Belks Department Store to buy a couple of flannel shirts and blue jeans and possibly a pair of Buster Brown shoes with a picture of Buster Brown and his dog Tige on the insole.

Most of us have memories of starting school. For instance, often clients of mine when asked about their school days will speak of anxiety. September brings up memories of failing grades, school bullies and fears of being embarrassed. Some cried before going to school, not wanting to leave home.

As for myself, I generally liked school, I was a good student until the goof off times of high school when sports, cars and girls took center stage. I was voted most popular by my senior class, not the most likely to succeed.

Yet, there was a certain dread about starting school. There was an intuitive sense that freedom, creativity, love of learning and social enjoyment were clamped by the cultural expectations of succeeding. Some of my teachers were such a positive influence for me. It wasn’t the fault of teachers, just the structure of education generally.

Those are impressions of September past. We all have them.

Now I am in the September of my years. Thus, I recall the song “The September of My Years” by Frank Sinatra. In 1965 his studio album on Reprise Records was released. The lyrics are worth repeating:

“One day you turn around, and it’s summer. Next day you turn around and it’s fall. And the springs and winters of a lifetime what happened to them all.

“As a man, who has always had the wandering ways. Now I am reaching back to yesterdays, ‘til a long-forgotten love appears.

“And I find that I’m sighing softly as I near the warm September of my years.

“As a man who has never paused at wishing wells, now I’m watching children’s carousels. And their laughter is music to my ears.

“And I find that I’m sitting gently as I near September, the warm September of my years. The golden warm September of my years.”

The song invites us to reminisce doesn’t it? One of the lines in the song is particularly relevant. “As a man, who never paused at wishing wells, now I am watching children’s carousels. And their laughter is music to my ears.”

A romantic by nature, I have paused at wishing wells. However, a major portion of my life was spent searching for the Holy Grail, the best pathway to God. Even more telling was the hero journey of climbing up the proverbial ladder of success in my profession. Following ideals, slaying dragons and winning princesses is a fatiguing endeavor.

Hurrying through life without much thought to the toll on my body was a standard operating procedure. As a therapist, I would often start early in the morning and go into the evening counseling folks, sometimes getting home after nine. Part of me is still proud of my capacity for work.

But in the September of my years there is a heightened sense of attention to children’s carousels, dogs, birds, people — life unfolding around me. That’s music to my ears.

I am retiring from doing too much, moving too fast, not giving myself time to reflect. I want what I do to be connected to my soul, not “Made in the USA” activity.

Sure, looking back in order to bring something new brings regrets. One of my regrets is that I worked in and upheld institutional settings for much of my career, such as being an executive director of a counseling center. I wish I could have gone into private practice earlier like the one I have in Brevard now. There are fewer headaches, sort of like the nirvana of my career.

Even though I am fuller of life, I cannot go back and recover the lost girlfriend, the chances to speak up more, the paths I could have taken in my career.

In a study published in the “Journal of Social Psychology,” Robin Kowalski, Ph.D., of Clemson University found that many people can convert the frequent refrain of regret - “If I only knew then what I know now I would have done things differently” - into a chance to apply what they would say to their younger self to their life today. “For example, if you feel you should have thought through all of your options more before making a decision when you were younger, you are more likely to be a more deliberate and thoughtful person today.” (Reported in Massachusetts General Hospital’s “Mind, Mood and Memory” newsletter)

In other words, I cannot recreate what once was, a do over, if you will. But I can take my experience and offer what I have now to the world around me. Yet from a different place of soulful expression.

Thinking about the September of my years may bring up a time of reflection in you. What does September of your years evoke in you? Perhaps spending a little time in personal reflection may be a soulful preparation for fall and winter years.

(Dr. John Campbell is a psychotherapist and clergyperson living in Brevard.)


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