Falling Elegantly


Perspective. It all comes down to perspective.

Choose a spot outside. Do nothing for ten minutes. Write about it.

Twenty of us doing this same class exercise, yet twenty of us will have completely different experiences. I am plopped on the slanted ground, doing my best to remain balanced in one spot. This may not be the most logical spot to sit, but it was calling my name all the same. I have the vantage point from here. I know there are nineteen other people in close proximity, yet I cannot see one. As far as I am concerned, I am alone.

And I like it that way. I’m not an introvert per se, but I am not an extrovert either. I am the in-between, as with many things in my life. I don’t have to fit squarely into one category. Maybe some people do, but I’m not one of them. I never have been.

The breeze picks up, and one, two, three, four leaves land on me. I almost reconsider forgoing the sweater, but then I remember: I like the in-between of fall. Not hot, not cold. It forces me to feel, but not to an extreme.

It’s somewhere in the middle, just as I am. It doesn’t signify new beginnings, but rather beautiful endings. I have a thing for beautiful endings, and fall does beautiful endings the right way. The beauty is evident and obvious as the leaves shift and eventually float to the ground with an air of elegance.

In real life it isn’t that simple. More often than not, the beauty of an ending is only evident long after the initial shock, the trauma. Shedding layers of ourselves seems more painful than a tree shedding leaves. We don’t always float elegantly to the ground. More often than not we are picked up and slammed into it face-first, forcefully, immediately. There is no soft landing.

But as we observe year after year, the beauty returns. It returns after a seemingly never-ending winter, during which the trees are bare, exposed to the elements. Then slowly, winter gives way and they begin to bud, hesitantly at first, and then all at once. Color returns to the world, and that idea that it was barren and empty only days earlier seems ludicrous.


My flow of thought is interrupted by a shrill squeak. I look up and unknowingly enter a staring stand-off with a squirrel. He is suspended almost upside down, clinging to the bark, inching slowly downward. For every inch, he adds a small squeak, as if to announce his presence, to warn me. After two minutes of this, I begin squeaking back. He was asking for it. In turn I receive an inquisitive glance, and I look away. One second later, and the squirrel is gone. Vanished.

Appropriate timing, since right then a high whistle makes its way to me, signaling that it is time to switch places. My classmates gradually begin to emerge from their own spaces, and retreat to new ones. I follow suit, but move only a stone’s throw from where I previously sat. But now, instead of being surrounded by no one, I am surrounded by hundreds of people. Alfred, Gerard, Edward, Aloysius. People who are six feet under, but still – people.

Again, perspective.

A gravestone is dated 1803-1869 and it hits me – as much as I’d like to think this is my place, it isn’t. So many people have been here before me, breathed this air, watched these trees shed parts of themselves. So many others have loved this place and this season – enough so to spend eternity here.

Hundreds of bodies surround me, all with their own story, their own successes, their own struggles. But I don’t know any more than their name, their birth and death date. I don’t know if they slammed face-first or fell elegantly. Their lives exist in that small dash, a dash between the years that is barely even visible anymore, but that I know exists.


The world is so much bigger than me, bigger than my problems. Millions of people have suffered through life, while millions of others have paved an incredible path. Millions have fallen off the tree and face-planted forcefully with no hope, while others have fallen elegantly, with faith that they will be given another chance. They know they will see the beauty in the ending when the time comes.

I’m going to make my fall an elegant one.

Perspective. It all comes down to perspective.

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