Turning A New Leaf – Fall into Yourself

“Turning A New Leaf”: A column has NOTHING to do with cannabis but EVERYTHING to do with the people. We sit down with them to share their philosophies on life. From humorous, thoughtful, motivational, inspirational life lessons and goals with the transition into each new season.


It doesn’t matter what age we are, the oncoming season of fall always brings with it an ineffable sense of melancholy. Whether it is looming childhood memories over back to school anxiety or the loss of summer frivolity making way for autumnal reflections, the cooling temperatures and earlier sunsets can inspire some trepidation. With only so much time left in the year, this puts enormous pressure to make the most of it. The overriding burden of getting older can suddenly feel like a slap in the face for the unprepared. However, there are ways to combat this. Who better to speak to about this than a couple of harbingers of the season; school teachers?

Nick and Laura just recently moved in together. Both have managed to stay in the same Brooklyn neighborhood, Prospect-Lefferts Garden, for their entire duration since arriving to New York. When it comes to out of state transplants, there are two types of people; those who have to move often enough, anywhere between every 6 months to almost every year, for a variety of reasons (shady landlords, sketchy roommates, shitty lease deals, etc.) or those blessed few that manage to find a spot and stay there as long as they wish. Nick and Laura met at Blessings, a local coffee shop situated between both their apartments. Just hang on now, it gets more rom-com than that. Both were by themselves at the cafe while a group of parents were having a meeting over starting a new school. They were accompanied by their children, all of whom were rambunctious and running all over the place. This caught both their eyes, when they finally noticed each other. After a while, Laura leans over to Nick and says, “You know what’s funny? I’m a pre-school teacher and it’s my day off”.

Not missing a beat, Nick responds, “You know what’s even funnier? I’m also a pre-school teacher and it’s also my day off”.

From that initial interaction, Nick and Laura became friends and eventually started dating. They discovered a number of shared commonalities between them; living almost a decade in the same apartment just a block from each other, same profession, and attended the same child development program (though at different times) at Hunter College. Within their conversations, they talked about how gentrification is changing the neighborhood, favorite spots to check out, and views on education. Initially, Nick had saved Laura’s information on his phone as Laura “Counterpart”, as he joked they’re basically the same person. Indeed, aside from numerous coincidences both personal and professional, one thing they both shared was a reason to move to New York City, and it wasn’t to get into education.        

“One thing I liked about Laura was that she understood kind of where I was coming from with things, which were that we both had gone through the same experience where you move to New York City to do this thing you were destined to do”, Nick explains. Both of their migrations to New York were spurred by creative impulses, not academic or professional ones. Like millions of hopeful others that come to the “Greatest City in the World” every year, a desire to pursue their passions and become a wild success led to their decisions to become New Yorkers. As Nick goes on, “I was destined to be a hip-hop producer; I was always into rap. Everyone I knew was like, ’oh you’re going to move up there and do some big old things’. And then after four or five years living up here…eh, you don’t”.

The realization that your dream is unobtainable is very hard to accept. After years trying to make it as a producer (selling beats to artists, DJ gigs here and there), Nick realized he needed to change course. “I had this period where I was just like, oh my God, I’m not going to become famous off of this, I’m not going to make any money doing this, and I’m not a success at this. And I have to get used to the fact that I’m not going to be this person that everyone and myself thought I was going to be”. It’s a crushing reality that many have to face. However, this time can lead to introspection and questioning. Nick explains, “Eventually you get past that, get over that part of myself, and make beats again for my own enjoyment and feel really good about that. To just do art for the sake of it”.

The act of creating just for its own sake can provide one of the purest pleasures known. Laura’s calling was to dance. She had worked three years as a modern dancer for a company before moving to New York. Laura continues, “I moved here, had all those same thoughts of dancing here. That’s why I moved here, to find out what was in store for me in New York City”. After a while, the grind started taking its toll. The likelihood of a career in dance started getting grimmer. As she explains, “I was so disillusioned by other people’s influence and what they thought I should be doing. I listened to a lot of that. I auditioned for all sorts of things, things I wasn’t even interested in, like musicals”. Laura went as far as purchasing character shoes and tap shoes for Broadway shows. “I kind of went through this period where it comes with a lot of rejection, comes with a lot of crazy trials, and you don’t have money while you’re doing it. That’s the story, right? That’s what you’re supposed to push through to become famous”.

Eventually, Laura had enough and decided to make a change. She took a side job as a nanny for a family and really fell in love with them. Nurturing children had a surprisingly rewarding effect on Laura and she started transitioning into the world of childcare. Her connection to the first family ended up providing a connection to her current role as a pre-school teacher. However, it wasn’t an easy transition and Laura had to talk about this with her therapist. She explains, “I used to define myself as a dancer and now what am I doing? Am I just a nanny, what is that?” After much soul searching, Laura decided the role of teacher was the right fit.

However, a person never loses the experiences which shaped him or her. Having a background in heavy creative expression allows Nick and Laura to really tap into their students’ imaginations. These skills are useful in allowing children to really express themselves openly and honestly. Both work at schools that practice a form of educational philosophy known as the Reggio Emelia approach. Named after an Italian village around the time of WWII where parents were seeking a new way to educate children, this belief espouses a sense of self- independence in learning, where kids teach themselves. Nick and Laura function as collaborators with the children, rather than authoritative instructors. They find out the interests of the students and plan activities accordingly. This fosters an atmosphere of community and encourages a healthy dose of constructive engagement with the surrounding environment.

It is within that spirit that we must acclimate ourselves to the changing season. As mentioned earlier, it can be challenging going from summer to autumn. However, it is important to remain focused. One way to do that is to set goals, both long-term and immediate. One goal for Nick and Laura is to cook more and eat better. Summer can be a fun time to pack on the pounds, with all the barbecues and outdoor festivals happening. Going into fall can be a good time to create the challenge of having a healthier diet. Go to a farmer’s market and find out what produce is in season. Discover different recipes and make dishes never before attempted. Aside from dietary concerns, make sure to plan activities. Being indoors more provides a chance to take on some new hobbies. It’s still important to stay physically active as well. Something as simple as going for a leisurely stroll can make all the difference. With the crisp autumn air, a hazy afternoon walk can feel immensely refreshing from being cooped up inside all day. To go along with a planned daily routine, find out about local events in the area. Avid readers can subscribe to a mailing list for a local bookstore and see what author talks are scheduled to come up. Attend a few art galleries around the area to keep current on cultural happenings. On that note, go to the theater and see what shows are coming up. There are almost endless options out there just waiting to be picked up on.

Saying good-bye to summer doesn’t mean saying good-bye to fun. Stimulation exists everywhere. Letting go of certain intrinsic pleasures of the season can certainly be difficult, but it doesn’t mean abandoning them completely. Sometimes we have to let go and find a new way. In doing so, we can touch upon things previously not thought possible.   If we feel regret at not having done everything we wanted just remember; there’s always next year.