I wrote this after having reread The Great Gatsby as an adult.
There is a particular feel to summer. It is not just the warming of the weather that makes it time for tanks, shorts, and flip-flops. Summer months are a time of possibility. When we are little the summer is when we are free from school and go on family trips. Those hot days filled with endless possibilities of adventure, real and imagined. Some summer odysseys might end in trouble and scraped knees but those always were always the best. Summer days tend to turn into a happy blur of memory with spots of clarity here and there.
Growing older – teenage and college years – brings a slightly different summer. Jobs. But those working days still have the possibility of adventure. Real adventure. Going places without parental supervision. Just you and your friends and the fun to be had. Granted the possibility for trouble grows tenfold in the summers of possibility once drivers licences are in hand and the before restraint is learned. Those are the summers of learning, love, trouble, and bright memories. Late night, traveling to different states and different countries. Sunburns from the beach and bad tan lines; the first taste of alcohol and the first hangover. Summer is when you do those things for a second time that you promised yourself you would never do again.
As an adult, summer is still a magical time full of possibility but those bright adventures that hold memories just waiting to be made are harder to take. Daily responsibilities take president over wanderlust. No longer do parents support us and we begin to understand how expensive those adventures really are. So as adults we do little things, weekend trips here and there to try and satisfy our need to go and do and see. These take the edge off but never quite satisfy because what we really want is a month abroad somewhere else in the world.
Summer has its own unique place in the American Dream. Especially when we are in our teenage and college years. We all want that summer romance, bonfires on the beach, parties, concerts, and to get in just a little trouble. Not enough trouble as to be forever haunted by one bad decision. No, we want to get in just enough trouble to create a few good stories that we can tell over the years and smile at fondly as we reminisce about our wild younger years.
The American Dream summer looks like an advertisement for a patio. Men cooking and standing around a grill while the women lounge in chairs sipping something cold and the kids run around in brightly colored swim suits in the bright green yard with a pool.
I love the summer, the adventure just waiting to be had. However, eventually things become too hot and when that happens in my heart I know that the summer days are numbered. August is here and school and September are just around the corner. The ending of summers tends to bring forth one of two feelings: a sense of accomplishment or that of being unfulfilled. More often than not it is the later. We feel as if we did not do enough with our summer days, as if we wasted the potential. But as the seasons change and as the days grow colder our drive to go and see and do goes dormant. Maybe hibernates is a better word. The potential for life through adventure waits until the days start to grow warm again and like the first buds of spring awakens once more.
The trick is filling your days, making the potential a reality, making those memories so that when the year turns cool and September arrives summer ends with in accomplishment and not with regret for lost and wasted time.