Every year we seem to accumulate more and more responsibilities. Sure, the feeling of independence is great and somewhat liberating, but this summer, as I drive around and watch children and teenagers interact, my mind races back to a time when summer merely meant beaches and road trips, not chores and appointments and dreaded Mondays. Remember those days?
The air always carried the same heavy, lethargic feeling, characterized solely with summer heat, as its humid moisture seeped into your every single pore. The scent of freedom would permeate your hair, your skin, your soul, waiting for a rebellious release. The day had no set agenda. There were no obligations, no due dates, a nowhere-to-go, nothing-to-do boredom that was somewhat satisfying and seemingly easy to deal with.
We would lounge pool side with our friends, the venomous rays of sun branding our skin with tan and pink tints, and streaking our hair with baby strands of blond. The stench of chlorine would replace our usual perfume, and sunburned cheeks required no rouge. We would sit on the rooftops as we watched the fireflies ripple around us, and we blew dandelion seeds into the air, to be carried off to mysterious lands. We swore to be best friends forever and always.
Our daylight hours were a regression back into childhood, filled with cut-off shorts, straggly ponytails, melty ice-cream cones, and water balloon fights. Come night, we would attend the party of a friend of a friend, and leave with a ringing in our ears caused by music that was too loud. We would come home late, disappointing our parents, and would spend way too much time thinking unnecessary thoughts before we slept.
As adolescents, hidden in some deep crevice of our minds, we were somehow convinced that the whole entire world revolved around us—an eternal display of theatrics starring us as the lead players. We would pine for accolades to add color to our transparent lives. And now we have it—the splash of paint on our biographical canvases: a degree, a job, an engagement ring, some kind of validation.
Now we are all adults, but are we really all that happy? I hold in contempt the individuals who become so absorbed with their futile attempts to conform to what others think they should be, because they have forgotten themselves. But who am I to judge?
Let us be realistic. There are six billion people alive today, and I know, I mean I really know, maybe ten. That leaves an anonymous five billion, nine-hundred ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety souls out there. What is the probability that you, or even I, at 23, are where we should be in life? Which one of us has it figured out?
My mind is only able to capture my twenty two years of knowledge and experience, thus excusing my unrelenting insistence that I have all there is to want, right here. However, I must question this, as it explicitly contradicts my theory that humans were created to yearn, to crave, to desire.
Because of this insatiable instinct, it is virtually impossible to reach a place of satisfaction with what you have or what you are given. It is a handicap, this wanting, but it is also the basis of our day to day survival, for in the want, there is room for hope, and in the hope, amity, and in the amity, love, and in love, life.
This summer is different. To make change a success, one must embrace it. I will continue to help out around the house and commit to my chores and job. I will enjoy it. I will cook for my family and hope they taste the love in my intricate dishes. I will secretly hope for much praise—my adult gold star. I will lounge in the sun half as much as I used to, and wear twice as much sunscreen, because the threat of skin cancer doesn’t appeal to me.
There will be a clock, a constantly ticking reminder that I do not have all the time in the world. I will make my own coffee and wear slacks with a button-up. My hair will be in a ponytail so as to prevent me from playing with it. I will be the new, adult me.
“Nothing gold can stay.” This is true. The new, the treasured, will not survive unscathed. But who is to say gold is what we want? I believe it is the tarnish that makes it worth treasuring. The battle wounds, the age, the marks of love—these are the tools of preservation. I will be different. And when I look back on the productive summers 10 years from now, I will feel proud and accomplished. I will have benefitted from the adult me.
This summer I have finally said goodbye to blowing dandelion seeds into the wind. They just fall to the ground anyway. I have switched from ice cream to frozen yogurt, and I have distanced myself from a summer carelessly spent. Of course, we all still have careless moments where there is nothing to do, but not for months at a time.
This summer I have learned to take in every minute, to taste it, to turn it over in my hands, and to catalog each precious moment. And each precious moment I will cherish as a memory. I will take more pictures with my iPhone than I ever did with my disposable cameras, and it will save me later when I want to remind myself that while I worked hard, I still enjoyed myself—I still had love and friendship and art around me.
I have grown up. In 20 years, there will be children, barbecues, and reunions. I will have slightly conformed to a new mold by then. I will inhale the scent of Los Angeles smog and sand as I escape into the dark blanket of night that is my savior, my shield. I will see the stars, iridescent time tunnels back to another place. And I will jump onto a dandelion seed that is passing by on a hazy gale and let it carry me back to a time when I thought I knew who I was. To a place where it is summer and I am allowed to be careless.