I’ve spent a long time wondering if this is one of those “me” things, or does everyone have a summer self? Your summer self, is the bolder more spontaneous version of whoever you are for the other more lackluster, less adventurous seasons and months of the year. Your summer self acts upon those moments that take the “twenty seconds of courage” (yeah, I’m referring to We Bought a Zoo…what’s your point?)
Do you remember the feeling you get lying awake, restless, the night before the first day of school at the end of every summer? Sometimes, I imagined that crazy adventurous things would happen those last hours before my lids got too heavy and I fell asleep before it was time to start whatever “adventure” lay ahead of me for the following year. Those 180 days filled to the brim with not always equal parts laughter and tears, anxiety and carelessness. You know, I had visions of my crush tapping on my window, or that I’d see fireworks light up the sky, or an army of lightning bugs would illuminate the backyard. Obviously, I wasn’t a hard kid to amuse. Minutes and then hours would tick away, (I had a white digital clock sitting atop a book shelf behind my bed…) those red analog numbers just flashed in the dark, and opportunity slipped away second by second. But then you know I’d convince myself – this year would be exciting. Maybe we’d get a new foreign exchange student, or I’d get a boyfriend, or I’d write a book, or math wouldn’t suck anymore. Or I wouldn’t stress myself out about grades or be self-conscious. That I’d say yes more, and the year would be full of making a katrillion happy memories.
Fun memories were made, sure, but middle school and high school (and who are we kidding elementary school, too) are tough years. I’d like to think I know myself pretty well. I’d like to think there are things I can appreciate about myself, no matter how weird or quirky. I wasn’t one to set aside the things I believed in, to blend in. It just never felt worth it. But in the meantime, my after school adventures didn’t always add up to my night before school starts butterflies of anticipation dreams.
That’s where the “summer self” comes in. Somewhere a long the way, I decided to throw caution to the wind. I was convinced that those summer months free of class and routine responsibility, didn’t count in the big equation. That it was the perfect time for taking risks, taking chances – whether it be getting stuck on the river in a lightning storm, and hitching a ride from an old lady, or matters of the heart – those summer months were the very time to test the waters, to push my limits, to experiment with resiliency. You know, how much could I throw myself through and still come out winning?
What’s a summer if it doesn’t involve staying up all night, sharing secrets, telling stories, laughing ’til tears trickle out the corners of your eyes? What’s a summer if it doesn’t involve riding with the windows down, singing at the top of your lungs, and hunting down ice cream at one am? What’s a summer if it’s not hiding out on the swing set, under lamp posts absorbing every second of every minute? Piggy back rides in the rain? Climbing trees, climbing fences. Running until you can’t catch your breath. Riding bikes so fast your feet slip off the pedals. Stealing kisses under the moonlight. Playing cards and board games, and making music and not turning on a television for days and days. What’s a summer if it’s not holding hands in the movie theater, or under the table at the restaurant the whole town eats dinner at? What’s a summer if it’s not lying awake giggling in a tent you pitched yourself as the rain pours down outside. What’s a summer if it’s not handfuls of fireflies and making wishes as your feet dangle from a tailgate by a bonfire? Roasting marshmallows, and squealing as you chase all your fears away. Beach days with salty hair, sunburned cheeks, and the perfect amount of exhaustion. Jumping in and out of waves, getting rescued from the ones that were a little bit too strong.
What’s a summer if it’s not wet blades of fresh-cut green grass sticking to the bottom of your bare feet, running through lawns across the neighborhood? The way the water rushes through your ears as you puff out your cheeks and hold your breath under warm water in heated swimming pools. Beer spilling from bottles as you race to catch up. Golf cart wheels spinning on some new mystery tour down unknown paths. Coffee in the cemetery as you try to picture where you’ll be in five years. But it doesn’t matter because if you’re a fraction as content as you are in this moment – life will be fine.
What’s a summer if it’s not that feeling of holding hands, slicked with rain and the way your slippery fingers intertwine as you fall into the damp earth doubled over with laughter? What’s a summer if it’s not lighting sparklers off at the end of the dock? Eyes glowing with happiness that rivals the brightness of those crackling sparks of light? What’s a summer if it’s not a love not scrawled in nervous hand writing tucked into a back pocket? What’s a summer if it’s not wearing the same thrift store finds for days on end?
What’s a summer if it’s not creating and destroying, picking up and hanging up, starting over and hanging on?
It’s all the very things that make your heart fill up immediately. You know that feeling? Like sunshine being poured from a Dixie cup through a pinhole in your welcome heart.
The overwhelming mixture of possibility, of promise, of exhilaration – those moments that you swear your infinite. That these friends you’re spending these moments with – you’ll be bonded to for life.
So, I being this weird transient twenty-something that I am – am not the biggest fan of these summers stuck that don’t get the clear division they deserve between school months, and lack there of. There aren’t months by work and not working. There are days. There are weekends. But this whole summer self seems to ring true. There has to always be room for the summer self.
In case you’re wondering…the summer self makes appearances in other months of the year. You know, at birthdays, and holidays but summer is the perfect catalyst for the chaos that tips the scales between regular life, and something much more idealic and extraordinary.