Ever since spring ceased to mark the end of a school year and the coming of Summer Vacation, it has become increasingly difficult for me to enjoy. The fact that one must, as an adult, continue to work through what are arguably the most pleasant days of the year is almost enough to make one wish that it wasn’t spring at all. If all the weather is going to do is mock me from outside my office windows, maybe I’d be better off without it.¹
T.S. Eliot put it so succinctly when he said:
April is the cruellest month,
breeding Lilacs out of the dead land,
mixing Memory and desire,
stirring Dull roots with spring rain.²
The whole mad race toward summer, for that matter, is filled with a melancholy entirely different from that experienced in the brackish months of autumn. In the fall, we mourn the loss of light and life from the natural world, but in spring it is the departure of vitality from our own lives which is drawn into focus. As the world regenerates around us, we cannot help but see that we have grown another year older, another year further from our spritely youths, and another step closer to the clearing at the end of the path.
It seems too that I have been surrounded by the shadow of death as of late. At every turn, I am having to express my condolences to some good friend or another, the one degree of separation between myself and the Reaper being a few degrees too close for comfort. TV and film that I cannot help but watch (the amazing Grace and Frankie comes to mind) delve deeply into issues of mortality and purpose and happiness and loss, and I am amazed at how quickly things can change, how thin and ubiquitous the barrier is that separates us from the great beyond. It is as though the universe is reminding me, not so gently, that this too shall pass. I need to get my shit together.
As the earth warms up and the trees refoliate, I am bombarded with the fruits of other people’s labors (which seem all the more plentiful in comparison to my own relatively bare limbs). Here, so-and-so is receiving his Master’s degree. This one is getting married. Those two are having a baby. Or starting a business. Or booking a gig–and here I am, in a city I do not love, immersed in a culture whose priorities I do not share, ostensibly chasing a dream that I can no longer wholly identify as my own. I cannot afford to leave, nor would I want to without giving L.A. and “the industry” a proper chance, so for the moment I am stuck. It is the definition of frustration.
It is unhealthy, I know, to measure myself against the successes of others. But I am, after all, only human. In addition to being “only human,” I am also a single-minded and unmerciful perfectionist in whom the drive to excel has until now been life’s single greatest motivator. And like most perfectionists, it is not the potential for success which draws me onward, but the fear of failure before which I am ever-fleeing. No matter how often I check in with my inner child or self-coach to be mindful of the damage I am capable of inflicting upon my own psyche, my auto-flagellation game is strong and my implements are well-honed with use.
The one piece of comfort that I can take from the turning seasons is the knowledge that this too shall pass. Just as spring will always glide into summer before giving way to winter, this sense of melancholy will fade. It may potentially be replaced with a sense of foreboding or a deep, unmitigated sorrow, but I can deal with that when I get there. The world is moving underneath my feet, and it’s almost impossible that I’ll feel exactly as I do now in a year or even six months. Until then, there’s not much to be done for it except put on a little Joni Mitchell, spend some time at the beach, and nurture my life’s tree as best as I can. In time, it may well bear more fruit.
¹ This is hyperbole. Please do not take spring away from me.
² T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland