Fall is bittersweet to me. It’s mid-September as I write this letter and already the weather is cooling down and the days are getting shorter. It marks the end of summer, my favorite time of year. I love the sun, the long days and, yes, the heat. That’s saying a lot since I live in Sacramento, where we’ve had more than our share of 100-plus-degree days this year.
I’ve been spending the past several weekends reading outside on our balcony at home, soaking in the last rays of the summer sun. Even though season change happens on its dependable annual cycle, I can’t help but be saddened when I have to say goodbye to summer. Fall represents cold weather and dark nights, two things that dampen my mood. It represents staying inside, something that makes me lonely. It represents the need to wear more clothes: long pants, long sleeves, sweaters and coats—all items that have been perpetually ill-!tting for a body like mine.
In spite of the things that sadden me about this time of year, this season has, of late, also become a season of milestones. Not only does Under the Gum Tree celebrate its two-year anniversary with this issue, but I also celebrate my two-year wedding anniversary. My husband and I run a business together (ThinkHouse Collective), which also celebrates an anniversary in October, this year marking our third year in business.
Are you sensing a theme?
Oddly, grouping these anniversaries together was completely unintentional. And perhaps even more strange, this year I add one more milestone to the mix. It was in our October issue last year that I wrote about being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and this November I will celebrate one year of my decision to treat MS without drugs and to embark on a complete lifestyle overhaul, including a year-long restricted diet.
You better believe I will be celebrating.
All of these milestones happening this season have got me thinking: Why do we celebrate milestones? Birthdays. Anniversaries. Graduations. Weddings. Funerals. Yes, each holds a significance. A meaning. But why are these milestones such a big deal to our culture?
For me, especially with the newest of my fall milestones, they are important because they tell part of my story. The celebration creates space to stop and reflect on what has happened to me in the year since I made one of the biggest decisions of my life: a decision that will forever alter my future. By celebrating it annually, I can consider the journey I have been on over the course of that year. I can see how I have grown and changed. I can see how I have shared that growth and those changes with others, both publicly—in my editor’s letters and on my blog—and privately—in one-on-one conversations with my husband, family and friends.
The celebration of the milestone then becomes part of my story. It becomes a time for me to honor those in my life who have helped me get to where I am today. It’s a time for me to honor even myself, which might sound conceited, but isn’t that what telling stories without shame means? It means that I am unashamed to say, yes, this year has been challenging but I am proud to say that I persevered; I am proud to say that I’m a more healthy version of myself; I am proud of the progress I have made.
Milestones tell stories. This fall they tell many of my stories. Not only am I proud of this one-year health milestone, but also I am proud of this two-year Gum Tree milestone. I’m proud of what it stands for; I’m proud of the writers and artists we have had the privilege to publish; I’m proud, most of all, of my dedicated staff who volunteer their time to make this magazine what it is—without them we wouldn’t be celebrating at all.
In honor of our two-year anniversary, we will celebrate and we invite you to join us, even if you aren’t local to Sacramento. On November 15, we will host a reading that will be live-streamed online via Google+ Hangouts. As the date approaches, we will be announcing details via the Under the Gum Tree newsletter, Facebook, and Twitter, so be sure to connect with us on one of those digital outlets and we hope to see you—virtually—on November 15.
As we enter the season that marks the end of another year, I hope that the stories this milestone tells about you are stories that make you proud and unashamed. I also hope that the stories in this, our two-year anniversary issue, inspire you to share your story without shame, milestone or otherwise.
Here’s to telling stories without shame,
Janna Marlies Maron