Summer is like happiness. Both are fleeting and appreciated most in their absence. Sometimes I wish I could stay in summer and not face reality. “Where will I be? What should I do?” Living with these questions unanswered takes a toll. I feel directionless and stressed, but I know I must let go and search for new experiences.

Summer is special because it is different. I can relax because I know summer is not forever. If I wanted to, I could continue living as I did in summer. At least for a while. I don’t need to answer all these life questions immediately. I could sit on a couch for a week or two. But even if I could escape reality for a little longer, I wouldn’t. I value summer because it coincides with my friends’ summers. We can relax and be carefree together.

Fall changes our shared experience. People go back to school or work. Sitting around doing nothing might be joyful when accompanied by others, but I know it is not joyful alone. Even though I do not have work requirements, I still feel real life’s presence because experiences are valuable when shared.

To be happy, I must embrace fall’s catalyst for change.  Change pushes me to new experiences, even better than the last. I loved college, but by leaving I could hike the AT, a new and equally significant life experience. By letting go of an experience I recognize its significance. This week I let go of my beard, shaving for the first time since February. I didn’t know how I would look clean shaven, but I needed to see. More importantly, I needed to bring closure to my AT experience. I shaved because I am excited about new and better things. To further adventure, I must let go of my old adventures. Shaving symbolized my transition.

It was still uncomfortable. Letting go usually is. I have to confront uncertainty. “What is in store for me now? How will I remember?” Letting go forces closure, when the closure might not be easy.

But closure opens doors. I am not beholden to past experiences. I can live fully in the present. After an incredible summer and Appalachian Trail journey, I look to the fall and see new beginnings. I am living in San Francisco for at least September. It’s a new city with old friends. I may end up here. Who is to say? I don’t have to make that decision yet. But I do need to let go of summer.

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