Seasons of Life
The Seasons of Life (a preface)
In kindergarten, I remember sitting upon a very worn out rug with the ABC’s and the colors and shapes decorating it. My teacher was a really unpleasant, older woman who had hearing aids and would occasionally turn them off so she wouldn’t have to listen to our 5 year old chatter. But nonetheless, we still learned. The first lesson I can recall was a song about the seasons and, quite honestly, I couldn’t tell you how the song went because I don’t remember. Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer. The four seasons of the year that we learned were based on the weather (or at least the weather in other places because we lacked a variety of seasons in our hometown).
The thing that I learned as I grew older and more mature, is there are actually seasons of life too. Periods of time that seem to be focused on one situation or emotion. And everyone’s seasons are different. There isn’t a set number of seasons because we go through so many ups and downs in life that we name after so many situations. Jealousy, joy, terror, hope, hopelessness, love, heartbreak. We all experience seasons at different times and you cannot necessarily predict when a new season is going to shift into place. On top of that, seasons can blend together so that you are going through weird times feeling utterly amazing, but extremely low at the same time. These seasons of life can be so aggressive that it consumes your entire being or so subtle you don’t even notice that they are there until it’s over.
I, myself, have experienced so many seasons of life that this paper would turn into a book if I wrote about all of them. But rather than waste time detailing my elementary school crush or my middle school drama, I’d rather speak of the most recent seasons I have gone through and still am going through.
The Season of Success
“Please provide your social security number” check. “Do you have dependents?” no. “Are you an Arizona resident?” unfortunately not. “Why ASU?”, this was the question everybody seemed to be asking me lately. “Why Arizona?” “It’s so hot there!” “There’s no beach there, what are you going to do?”. But the thing was, I couldn’t give a valid reason why, except that I felt this gravitational pull to Arizona since I was a kid. There was something out there calling me to come find it. And among what seems like dirt and dust, there is ASU which shined and still does as if it has the answer to every problem I have ever had. I was meant to be there and I needed to go despite what anyone said.
The application process was nerve wracking, but nothing compared to the anxiety of awaiting acceptance. I watched all of my friends apply to UCR, UCLA, Stanford, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State San Bernardino, Oregon State, Chico State, and so many more. Their dream schools, backups, last resorts, and random ones that seemed nice. While I applied to UCR and Cal State Fullerton as backups, there was this pit forming in my stomach, should I be applying to more? What if I don’t get in? Do I really want to be stuck in Riverside like everyone else in my high school? Of course, my mother being the sweet person she is, never stopped reassuring me. As she stirred food in pans or her blue Le Creuset, the smell of her cooking overwhelming my nose, she encouraged me, “You will get in Audra. This is what you have worked for the past four years. You have this”. No matter how many times I heard it from her while I sat at the counter, arm propping my head up anxiously, I still didn’t quite believe her.
It was the day before I started senior year, a Tuesday. I had applied to a total of three colleges but hadn’t heard anything but an email saying they received my application. Mom and I had finished all of our shopping for the school year so my closet was filled with new price tags and a brand new Jansport backpack filled with notebooks and binders sat next to my door. I can’t tell you if I have ever owned a backpack that wasn’t a Jansport, because I have had one every year and loved them more than any other ones. The smell of kielbasa sausage filled the house. I love eating mac and cheese with burned kielbasa, it was a meal I had as a kid so it always makes me feel like I was back to the simplicity of childhood. I was curled up on my bed, covered by my favorite blanket I had got for Christmas; soft, white, and oversized. I had begged for a soft blanket because my other one had ripped from so much use. I was watching Grey’s Anatomy which had been my binge show for the summer. It was a normal day of the summer; comfortable, lazy and just awaiting the school year to start so I could finally graduate.
That’s when the banner popped up on my phone. Usually I wouldn’t care who emailed me because my email was riddled with colleges I had never even heard of, begging for me to apply. It was annoying seeing my mailbox filled with people I didn’t care to respond back to. But this one was from the only college that truly mattered to me. The subject header read: Arizona State University– You’re admitted: Welcome to ASU! My heart leaped and I threw the blanket off of me as I sat up. I started to bite my nails out of anxiety as I read the email to make sure I had read it right. Congratulations, you have been accepted into Arizona State University. My eyes filled with tears and I ran into the kitchen with my hand over my mouth. “I got in!” I yelled and my mother looked up from cooking, confused. “I got into ASU, I got in!” I exclaimed, tears pouring down my face. The look on my mom’s face was one I will remember forever; she had this genuine smile and you could tell by the way she was looking at me she was proud. Which was the only goal I have ever really had. My dad and sister came running in, hearing the news from the living room, and we had a group hug in the kitchen with the sound of crackling sausage on the pan and the smell of mac and cheese enveloping us. At that moment, I felt like I was on top of the world. I got into my dream school. I knew from the second I got the notification, I was going to ASU.
The Season of Heartbreak
The drive to the diner was the worst. All I kept thinking about was the good times. When he came to my house for the first time, I remember opening the door and thinking about how handsome he looked. He wore khaki pants with an ironed light pink button up. His wrist was decorated with a silver watch, which was broken but he wore it to look more sophisticated. His hair was neatly done with gel, I preferred it with no gel and fluffy as it usually was, but I knew he was trying to look sharp to present himself to my parents. He wore his glasses too, which I always loved because he looked so handsome with them on despite his hatred for having to wear them. He had brought over a vast amount of gifts in the form of baked goods too. This was basically the key to my mom and I’s hearts. He used to love baking, but after this instance, it would be a rare occasion that he actually cooked. He made homemade pizza with real dough and his own sauce, he made both my parents these delicate apple roses which were dusted with cinnamon sugar. And my favorite thing he had ever made me: strawberry pie, sweet strawberries with a hint of tartness from lemon juice, and a rich buttery graham cracker crust that was to die for.
He never made that pie again, no matter how much I begged him to. I felt tears coming on as I drove thinking about this, but I fought them back. I couldn’t cry yet. I hadn’t even gotten to the diner. When he had come over, we also brought out my sister’s karaoke machine. It was small and Frozen themed with Elsa on it and a little disco ball that when turned on, shone snowflakes all over the room. I remember the way he grabbed the mic with no hesitation and stood up and sang his heart out. He had a good voice, but most of all he was having fun. It was that moment, watching him sing Johnny Cash songs and Elvis and Nirvana, that I fell in love with him. I pulled into the parking lot of the diner, with a few tears already slipping down my face.
I hadn’t expected him to show up early like I had, and we parked next to each other, too, which made me want to back out and repark. My heart was beating so fast I worried I might faint. I just kept telling myself to calm down, and to remember the reason I was doing what I was doing. It was awkward waiting for the table outside, families kept coming in and out. I kept thinking about how they were having a normal, fun Saturday morning while my entire world was crumbling around me. I knew he was looking at me, waiting for me to say something. But I continued to stare at my phone, acting as if I was texting so I wouldn’t have to look at him and lose it.
When we sat down for breakfast, I wanted to apologize to the waitress. I knew it would be awkward for her to wait on us considering what was about to happen. To make matters worse, we were seated right where all the diner employees went in and out of the kitchen, and we had a full view of the bar area where bikers sat to eat their usual Saturday morning meal. I felt like I walked on set for the season finale of everyone’s favorite reality tv show even though no one even did a double take of us. We just looked like a normal couple having Saturday morning breakfast, and how I wish that was the case. I finally looked at him, but I wish I hadn’t. Because looking at him made me think of how much this was going to hurt.
The first instance was bad but not terrible. We made plans to go to dinner, I was so excited and dressed up nicely and sat patiently in my room awaiting the text to say he was on his way. I felt like a little kid on Christmas Eve, so excited about the gifts awaiting me under a tree that I couldn’t relax. It was about 5pm and my parents were heading out. They were going to Saturday service so Sunday we could go spend time as a family. He was picking me up at 5:30 but I hadn’t heard from him in a long time. I kept telling myself he was playing video games and would text soon. I wish I was right. 7 o’clock rolled around and I was still sitting on my bed, feeling hungry, annoyed and unbelievably hurt. My mom called, they were going to the store and wanted to know if I needed anything. I told her no and she must’ve heard it in the tone of my voice. Or she had the motherly instinct that something was wrong. I told her he hadn’t come yet. She asked if I wanted them to get me food while they were out and I told her no. I wanted to believe he was still going to come.
It wasn’t until after my parents had come home, with food for me, that he called. He said he had fallen asleep. I cried so hard that night, and I wish that would’ve been the last time it had happened. But it was only the beginning; missing dates, acting like he didn’t really want to be with me, flirting with other girls right before my eyes, telling me he was tired all the time, lying about where he was or who he was with, never showing any interest in the things I wanted to do. Or on the day of Superbowl, when he decided to go behind my back and bet a great deal of cash on the game, supposedly to “use it to give me the best Valentine’s Day ever”. Just for him to lose the bet, not tell me, avoid making plans for Valentine’s Day, then for me to hear it from his friend. It was one of the worst days of my life, not because I was paying for everything (which I didn’t mind), but because I was looking forward to spending this special day with someone I loved, not a liar who made me miserable that night. And I wish I could say he would change at some point during our 10 month relationship, but I knew he wouldn’t and he didn’t, he’d never admitted to being wrong and he was always lying to me.
We ordered our food and when it came, I just stared at it. It wasn’t that it didn’t look appetizing because it did, it was that I knew I had to say what I had been dreading. He looked at me, knowing I had something to say but didn’t want to say it. For some reason, that made me love him a little more. To know he knew when I was struggling. I finally let it slip out. The words I had bottled up for so long out of my unconditional love for him, “I don’t deserve to keep being treated like this. And no matter how many times I beg you to change how you treat me, you don’t. I don’t think this is going to work anymore.” I finally let tears slip from my eyes, which felt freeing, in an odd sense. It felt like for that moment after I let it out, the world was slow. The cooks weren’t yelling out orders, and the biker wasn’t flirting with the middle aged waitress who flirted back just for the tip. The people were all still talking, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying anymore. But the look on his face made my heart twist as if it had been stabbed and was trying to get away from the knife.
Despite knowing I was making the right decision for myself, all I could feel was the heartbreak of what I thought was my one great love being ripped away from me. He was my everything, I woke up to him and went to bed with him. I loved him fiercely, more than I have ever loved anyone before. But he was also the biggest heartbreak I had ever felt, as if, and I know this may sound cheesy, my life could not move forward without him in it. I had one other boyfriend besides him, but this pain wasn’t the same. I had made plans with this guy, plans for our future and our kids and how we wanted to live out our lives together. This heartbreak felt like devastation.
Everything still reminds me of him, black Ford cars, huge trucks, I won’t ever be able to have boba again without my heart throbbing, Hostess orange flavored cupcakes. Before I left home, driving around town became the last thing I wanted to do. Every place I passed, I had gone to with him or reminded me of someplace else we had gone. It was the worst thing, knowing you are spending your last few days in the town you grew up in, feeling absolutely miserable because the guy who you thought you were going to spend your life with, isn’t the same person you fell in love with anymore.
It is a bitter thing to go through, because all I wanted is for him to go back to who he was before. I wanted the guy singing karaoke in my living room to be the one I was sitting at that diner with. But he wasn’t. Instead I had someone who was a liar, a manipulator, and someone who couldn’t love me back even half as much as I loved him. But at the end, even though it is the season of pure heartbreak, I feel free. I knew I made the right decision no matter how much it tore me apart inside. And I knew it was better this way. I still know that, even when I feel lonely and I miss the old him.
Season of Growth & Gratitude
His eyes were the kind of blue that made you think of the deepest part of the ocean, they were captivating, really. When we dated, I could stare at them for hours. I remember when we first started dating, how new it was. He was my first boyfriend and I was his first girlfriend. Before we started dating, it seemed everyone knew that we were going to end up together. “You can see it in the way you look at each other” they would say. I always laughed because that’s what I wanted but I didn’t think he felt the same way.
I consider him my puppy love, I had no idea how to love someone or how to be loved. But I knew I loved him. I knew when we layed in the sand that night at Huntington Beach. The night was cold, but we were warm with matching sweatshirts on and the faint smell of a bonfire about 15 feet away. We were gazing at the stars which seemed so vast and open, and when I looked at him, I knew. It was a feeling you cannot deny. The kind that felt as if a flower was blooming in your chest and you just knew this person meant so much to you.
There was a night we were sitting on the brick wall, the warmth of the fire keeping us comfortable, the crackle of it in the background accompanied by the sound of his dogs walking around the yard. We were sitting looking at the pool, at the time we were friends. Best friends. We had dated before, for a mere 6 months, but broke up to figure ourselves out while we remained friends. He was my best friend and I was still madly in love with him. He was telling me about this girl that he thought he was falling for. My heart dropped to my stomach and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I had wanted to grab him and throw him into the pool. I wanted to scream my lungs out telling him to not fall for her because I was right here. But I remained quiet and supportive of him despite my heart being shredded apart in his two sentences.
We dated again a month after that, maybe because I was the easy choice, but I will never know why he wanted to. I just knew I loved him and I wanted to be with him. I found out, not long into the second time we dated, that he was still talking to the girl he’d mentioned a month before. Up late on Facetime with her while I was just getting texts. I felt betrayed, I mean, this was the first guy I had ever been with and cared about. How could he, my first love, hurt me like this? I had never experienced this kind of pain before; heartbreak.
Even though it didn’t work out with him, I am forever grateful to him. He taught me how to love someone unconditionally, and he taught me how I wanted to be loved. He taught me how to handle breaking up, and that even though it feels like you’ll never stand again, eventually, you will. He was a lesson I needed for life, and I don’t regret choosing him as my first love. It took me a long time to be okay without him, because I poured my heart and soul into that boy. And it took me a long time to stop being angry at him for the things he did or didn’t do. But that is true growth and maturity; knowing that it was no one in particular’s fault, just that it wasn’t meant to be.
Season of Joy
I owe a lot of my joy to my friends. The day after I broke up with the man who I thought I would spend my life with, my friends dragged me out of the house for a girls’ day. We went to the beach to walk around and ended up going to an outdoor market at Huntington Beach. I felt free that day, smelling the salt of the ocean and feeling the wind in my hair. I had been so broken for weeks leading up to this breakup, and I knew I did the right thing for me despite the overwhelming amount of pain I was in. But that day, in a busy market with my friends, laughing about the expense of the jewelry being sold. Walking the streets, I felt as though I could enter this new chapter of being who I am and finding who that is and growing as a person. A door had been slammed in my face, crushing my heart in the process. It was time to pick up the pieces, fix my heart and move forward into a new door. And I knew that sounded easier said than done because I still feel the pain of the breakup, but at least my friends had convinced me it was possible.
We proceeded to hang out every week of summer. We would go to a new Barnes and Noble bookstore every day, splitting up and laughing when we found each other sitting on the floor, faces buried in a book. My favorite day was when we went to Santa Monica. I had never been and I love the ocean. I felt so safe in the water. I am surrounded by this vast thing that covers 70% of our planet, and when you lie there, floating in the water, you just feel at peace. We swam for hours, laughing when waves wiped us out and basking in the sun that wasn’t too hot or too cold. We trudged back to our towels and laughed so hard we cried when we saw seagulls had uprooted our buried food and had eaten everything. We ate the only thing the winged criminals didn’t steal; apples and caramel. We all made funny faces when sand was blown into our food and suddenly the sweetness of fruit and sugar was taken over by random grains of hard salt. I felt as though I hadn’t had a day like this, filled with laughter and fun, in a long time. It was at least a day where I wasn’t thinking about him and everything that came with the thought of him.
My friends made me laugh harder than I’d ever laughed, we enjoyed every moment together, we got lost in random beach cities together, we discovered new shops together, we went to a new bookstore all the time together, we discovered the true meaning of friendship and fun together. I was filled with joy during a season of heartbreak. And I miss them dearly, yet they still manage to make me laugh and forget about my worries and pain.
The Seasons; a Gift
The seasons of life we go through are not meant to last forever. This can either be of great comfort to you, or of great despair. That being said, all we can guarantee is that we will go through trials and triumphs which will shape who we are. Yes, seasons are erratic, and we can go through multiple at once, even. Yes, some seasons will be harder than others and some will also last longer than others. But no, we do not have to fear the change of seasons. As Anne Bradstreet, a New World Poet, once said,“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.” Embrace the seasons of life, even when they beat you down time and time again. Because with each season, comes a new one for you to experience. These seasons are not to be seen as consequences but as gifts. The gift life has given you is the ability to experience hardship and prosperity in the form of seasons. Take advantage of them!