Saturday, June 6, 2015

You're Doing Everything Wrong: Summer Edition

First a musical interlude:

I suck at summer. I admit this openly and without hesitation. While I love summer (it's my second favorite season), I stopped being good at summer in high school. My favorite summer activities include:
  • Getting sunburned (despite using appropriate sunscreen)
  • Feeling sweaty all the time
  • Reading
  • Going to the movies
  • Drinking iced beverages
  • Happy hour (as long as it's not at a rooftop bar; see second bullet point)
  • Going to concerts, even outdoors, despite the second bullet point 
  • Eating junk food at baseball games
  • Avoiding pools
I feel like I was better at summer when I was younger. I spent more time outdoors (and even sort of tanned except that one time my ears got sunburned) and while we were not a traditional summer vacation kind of family, we did go on a lot of road trips. Most of these road trips were to Detroit or from one military posting to another but they were always an adventure. When we lived in Alabama and Louisiana, we did go to the beach pretty frequently. I also recall thrill-filled amusement park adventures with my cousins and brother. The summers of childhood are about freedom and fun and exploration and imagination. And staying up really, really late. That's what I remember.

I'm guessing that it was late high school and into college where my summers turned from summers of fun and frivolity to work and work and some fun on the side. I spent summers working in theatres; my high school theatre, Summer Lyric Theatre at Tulane, and various little theatres and weird performance spaces around New Orleans. I never went anywhere or really did "summer" things but I had the best time. Some of my fondest memories from college (in particular) are from those summers working the box office at the Lyric (as our older patrons called it), trying to figure out where a patron left her tickets (answer: in the freezer next to her jewelry) and hanging out with my friends. Theatre parties are the best parties; don't let anyone tell you differently.

Joining the workforce has meant that my summers are just a continuation of the rest of the year. There's not a natural break anymore. I'm always doing some project or planning something at work and don't seem to have the time to really take off and enjoy myself. Even when I taught, I worked over the summer both at school and at a theatre so there was never the break that most people believe teachers have. Many of the summers of my early/mid-twenties involved friends' weddings so I tended to make the destination wedding my vacation by spending a day or two wherever it was rather than doing something separate. So really, summer just became a hotter, more humid version of the rest of the year.

I should be experiencing the type of summer that I sometimes dream about: concerts, vacation at the beach, trips to the winery, baseball games, and relaxing with a good book. This is the first summer in eight years that I don't have a large user conference in an uncomfortably hot location (think Phoenix in July) to plan and attend. I don't have to be concerned with seating arrangements at the awards breakfast (hint: it doesn't really matter where people sit at these things) nor do I have to prepare myself for product questions while I'm waiting in the restroom line. No work polos to pack (rust? gray? blue? some new weird teal shade?) and no lengthy discussion with other co-workers about what is and is not appropriate to wear at a professional event held in the summer. I have my summer back but I have absolutely no idea what to do with it.

A few months back I wrote about the difference between doing things by yourself and being lonely. They're not the same thing; doing things by yourself is fun but sometimes you don't want to be by yourself. Some things lend themselves to being done in groups or at least with a few other people. Summer, for me, is not a solitary season. It's about being outside and soaking up the warmth of the weather and of others. I think that's why I like going to outdoor concerts so much. A summer concert combines my love of good music, being outside for a very specific time period (in the pavilion of course; no lawn seats for this girl), and being around others who enjoy/love the band. It's a temporary community that I can get behind even when that temporary community stands at inappropriate times during the show or gets into fights in the parking lot (true story).

Not my photo but from another devotee.
What it comes down to is that I need to reclaim my summer. It's not that I'm doing everything wrong when it comes to summer; I'm just not really doing summer. I didn't prepare enough to take a big vacation but I can spend my weekends doing summer things. I can take Fridays or Mondays (or both) off to extend the fun if I want to. I need to rally the troops (my friends and family) to join me on adventures. I must go outside more despite the heat and potential for sunburn. I should probably invest in a hat. I can stay up late and not feel terrible about it in the morning although I may have to redefine what "late" actually is. I will find Superman ice cream in Northern Virginia if it takes all summer.

I need to rediscover the summers of my childhood and the joy of slowing down while still participating in adventures.

To a summer of small adventures!

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