Prompt Images

Fall foliage: it’s all glorious, and I love it.

I get drunk on it (also literally on hard cider from Cider Hill Farms). Fall is the ultimate #aesthetic, especially for a sweater queer like me. I thrive in fall’s beautiful, chill dankness—that is, until the deathly winter, the harbinger of seasonal affective disorder, dumps a load of the S-word on my steps and in my driveway.

New England’s fall foliage is enough to make Guy Fieri jealous. His flamboyant Flavortown, red flames, and racing stripe aesthetic have nothing on that the warm-colored, flickering trees that sprout up across the countryside, ignited by the damp, dank pre-autumn winds. Growing up in Boston, I can still recall the burning bush next to our porch, our bright orange maple, and deciduous leaves that resemble the hues of sputtering candles.

I may hate F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing with a burning passion, but damned if I don’t appreciate his quote, “Life begins again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

Fall is a highly nostalgic season for me and always has been.

It makes me think of my long-gone grade school and college days and how I vow to go back for my Masters before I die. I recall how much I love reading and writing. I relive my regrets. But good ol’ fall of 2018 hooked me with a different, more potent memory: karate.

I hold a second degree Black Belt in Shotokan Karate; many of my friends know this. However, none of the friends I made during college and even my fiancé has seen me in fighting form. During my time as an instructor, I was composed, confident, and an eager teacher who fostered that same self-respect and confidence in my students while the dojo itself was a toxic, homophobic, xenophobic, and misogynistic mess. In an image, the dojo was those gloriously aflame fall trees and I was the dog from the “This Is Fine” comic.

So I left.

Two days before departing for my first year of undergrad. I didn’t look back.

I knew I would never return to my old dojo, but that didn’t mean I would never return to karate. Since the day I left, I’ve wanted to rejoin at another place. I’ve wanted to feel that sense of empowerment, of mastery, of . I regret being away so long.

I’ve had several periods of transition in my life, where you can tangibly feel yourself reaching a tipping point, a new stage, a new reality, with a new inertia. This fall is one such time.

I took the plunge. I’m one to overanalyze the hell out of every single thing in my life, and searching for karate studios in my area was no exception. I have high standards. Why shouldn’t I? This hard core searching period yielded the bets karate studio I’ve seen in years. I joined three weeks ago.

Damn you, F. Scott Fitzgerald. You were right.

Sometimes life really does start all over again in the fall, damn you F. Scott Fitzgerald. How I longed for the days when I owned the sparring ring and perfected kata after kata.

Guys, kickass Shalen is back. The confidence I have when in the martial arts is incomparable . It’s an incredibly humbling experience, starting fresh as a white belt in Tang Soo Do, a entirely new karate discipline. From Black Belt and karate instructor to white belt at the bottom of the totem pole, I’m starting anew. Let the leaves fall where they may.

Shalen Lowell

Shalen Lowell is an author and poet from southern Maine. They were also voted least likely to be an ENTJ Slytherin, but here we are.

learn more
Share this story
About The Prompt
A sweet, sweet collective of writers, artists, podcasters, and other creatives. Sound like fun?
Learn more