Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 12, 2024
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COURTESY OF SHAYNA FAUL

Faul reflects on how the transitional nature of fall mirrors her life.

Autumn is the season of in-betweens.

It is the soothing nook — a gentle space of transition — between Baltimore’s sweltering summers and its icy winters.

There is also a hint of nostalgia that wafts in the air as leaves trade vibrant greens for amber hues before the doffing of their luxuriant manes; every falling leaf marks a yellowed page in the book of time. 

Autumn, with its shifting palettes, reminds me of the kaleidoscope of my existential being, where I have often found myself navigating the space between identities. 

Hybrid spaces are my comfort zone. I grew up in the spaces of in-betweens, the interstices of bilingualism, the realm between the East and West, half Taiwanese and half American. I think back on childhood, living in a Western skyrise among a cityscape dotted with leftover residences like those of the colonial showa-cho or stubborn sanheyuan or peeling postwar villas. Along the river, I climbed trees with my neighborhood buddies and tasted the sweet nectar of succulent flowers; when I got home, I ate my mom’s chocolate chip cookies one after another, without a worry in the world.

Outside my Baltimore window, dusk comes ever earlier as summer washes gently out and winter trickles in. My roommate reminds me that our east-facing window shortens our days that much more. While the days aren’t yet too short for a pleasant outing and still warm enough for a luxuriant gelato at Tia’s Italian Ice, the coming winter nights greedily nibble at the daytime, having suppressed their appetites during the summer. 

Warm solar rays still kiss the autumn days, giving respite from cold fingers riding twilight breezes. I don’t mind the trade-off and look forward to the coming days spent huddled inside with a book and a warm blanket. 

Going to school in Taipei, I’d read the great Chinese classics in class, and then at home, I’d give rein to my love for English fantasy novels, instilled through bedtime readings. I remember how as a little girl, each night before bedtime, I would walk into my parents’ bedroom, hugging one of those ginormous Harry Potter books in my tiny arms. If I had fallen asleep the night before, missing a chapter end, I’d make my dad shuffle back to find the spot. Listening to those magical stories read each night was a routine that I had come to love, and I wouldn’t let my dad off without a good chapter or two. 

Now I can’t seem to let myself off. I’m a sucker for the classics. I love the puzzling oddities of Songling’s Liaozhai zhiyi, the extravagance of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and the succinctness of Hemingway’s In Our Time

But no story goes on forever, and autumn is a gentle reminder of the impermanence of everything. During this season of temporal transformation, I seem more prone to look back on the photos saved on my iPhone. These physical memories manifest the refined images of my story, and they ignite in me this realization of temporality; I am no longer the little girl I once was, but now on a journey to discover myself and construct the who that I am meant to be. On the record, I am a nineteen-year-old adult, but off the record, I don’t yet feel like one — stuck in the limbo between worry-free dependence on parents and the independence of a worried professional.

I inhabit the season of transformation between youth and age, between East and West, destined to be a mosaic of time and space, age and identity. 


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