Today is August 31, the last official day of summer (or at least, that's how I see it).
I was taking a walk with my dog the other day, enjoying the heat, the blue-blue skies, and the sound of cicadas in the trees, and I wondered why it was summer made me feel so alive and happy. I know a lot of people hate summer, usually because of the heat, and they'll almost always say fall is their favorite season instead. But I hate fall.
I love summer because it's so hot, I can actually feel the heat pushing into my body, which is cooler by comparison. I like the sun and the insects. A mosquito here and there never hurt anyone. I like watching the snakes sun-bathe, and then slither off into the grass when we get too close. I like sitting by the pool and reading, looking up every now and then to enjoy that aqua color of the water.
But I realized that what I really love about summer is that it's the only time where I'm really myself.
I'm a first-born child, and a girl at that, therefore it was practically mandated I would be a people-pleaser. When you make other people's expectations a priority, it can have a lot of advantages. You tend to get good grades in school. You're valued at work for being organized and dependable. Deadlines are your friend.
But the downside is you tend not to make your own expectations and goals a priority. During the school year, I always felt like I was running around trying to make everyone else happy (playing sports, performing in recitals, endlessly studying to get good grades). I never had enough time to do the things I really wanted to do, which was basically to read, write, draw, and play outside by myself.
Summer was the reprieve from school and all those outer-expectations. It was the only time of year that my family and my teachers left me alone. My brother and I spent most of our summers at our babysitter's house, sitting in her basement, which sounds awful, but really it was heaven. We spent hours of time playing video games, reading, and watching tv. Then we'd be sent off to my grandparents house, where it was even better, because then we could run around outside and swim all day. No one asked us to do anything except our chores.
It was really only then that I was myself, or rather, escaping into various fantasies and stories in which I really felt like myself. I wasn't the "good-student" or the "good girl" during the summer. Everyone finally left me alone, and stopped asking me to do so much crap for them. That was happiness.
Occasionally, my dad would try and butt in with some obnoxious math workbook, but I typically fought back over that. Summer was my time. I didn't need more school (God, the last thing I needed was more school work). It was kind of ironic even, because my dad's descriptions of his own childhood were almost entirely about how he shirked school to work on his own projects, doing things like rebuilding cars, sailing dingies, and playing in rock-and-roll bands. Basically, doing the things he wanted to do. And frankly, it worked. He's a brilliant scientist and engineer, he's the best sailor I know, and he's a wonderful musician. Did he learn how to do all those things from math workbooks? No, he learned how from playing around on his own time. That's all I ever wanted, and I only ever got it during the summer.
But of course, August 31 always rolled around and suddenly it was time to buy school supplies and new shoes again. I still get depressed watching back-to-school commercials for this reason, even if I've been technically out of school for several years now (though I'm still employed by academics, so maybe that's why my internal calendar is still so school-centric).
So goodbye summer. It's been a great one. I started working full-time on my own editing business. I wrote and published my own books on Amazon Kindle Direct. I hung out at the pool with my own friends almost every weekend. It was my summer, and it was amazing.
My goal now, as an adult and a reforming people-pleaser, is to take that summer freedom and apply it to the rest of the year. There's no reason I can't love fall. There aren't anymore teachers or parents to tell me what to do. I'm 30 years old and I finally feel like I belong to myself.
But then again, I'm going to miss that heat. Goodbye summer. Until next year.