I love summer. I always have. Summer has always felt like freedom to me (even if freedom looks an awful lot like a grown woman lying stock still in front of a fiercely blowing air condition during a heatwave). I like the change in pace. Life all around me slows down. I slow down. And in Manhattan, where 1.7 million people live on just 23 square miles, people leave for summer homes and vacation spots, and suddenly the streets are noticeably quieter. In the quiet, a space is made. I could fill it with more work, but I choose to fill it with the vibe of summer: I fill it with creativity, play, and adventure.
From the ages of 9 to 15 I went to sleepaway camp, just like countless other upper-middle class kids from the Northeastern US. But I did not go to whatever camp you are likely picturing. I would have withered and come to hate summer, having been forced to play sports (especially team sports) and do whatever else children deemed as normal did at their normal camps. My parents found camps for “non-competitive kids,” ruling out any camp with Color War. Each summer I attended a camp or a program with plenty of like-minded, sensitive, artsy weirdos. In elementary and middle school I felt different and unaccepted by most of my peers. But at camp, with a bunch of other art kids, I could be myself and be accepted. Summer became associated with art and meditation; first kisses and first loves; a lot of swimming and a lot of ice cream; minimal obligations and lots of reading whatever I wanted.
In the years after camp but before college, I studied photography in Maine and British cinema and photography in Cambridge, England. Again I was with a handful of other artsy weirdos, who like me, had outgrown camp, but not outgrown summer.
Then in college I found summer housing, and worked jobs that met my standards of “fine” and “air-conditioned.” In my free time which was still plentiful, I drove around with friends, seeking out new spots for swimming eating ice cream, and falling in love. At home I made stuff. I bought a used sewing machine and taught myself to sew. I decoupaged everything I could get my hands on. I continued to study photography.
At the end of my first year in college it dawned on me that “summer break” was soon to be a thing of the past. I was packing up my dorm room, taking down my Pulp Fiction and Breakfast at Tiffany’s posters, when the view from my room of the campus green caught my eye. It was devoid of students and the foliage somehow looked plumper. The grass was just inviting me to lie in it and do nothing. I was certain college summers were going to be my last summers of note. I was flooded with grief, suddenly anticipating long years of unyielding office drudgery. School and learning had always been engaging and rewarding, and then they were followed by summer breaks: a time of play, recovery, and adventure. What I did not foresee is that I would find gainful employment doing something engaging, playful, and rewarding. Nor did I realize my intense love of summer would allow me to find a way to embody that summer break spirit well into adulthood.
As the weather heats up I am getting ready to play, recover, and go on some adventures.
My summer has begun. On the official first day of summer, I am headed into the second of three Somatic Experiencing Intermediate modules and then I will be going on a summer vacation. I am treating myself to a few days in the Berkshires participating in Kripalu’s Narrative Healing program and then heading to Anaheim for a family vacation.
During my vacation I will be taking a little break from my weekly post. In the meantime, I hope each and every one of you takes some time to have your own summer break this summer. Maybe it doesn’t look like a vacation, but maybe a staycation? Did you have a favorite thing to do each summer: reading under a tree, participating in Color War (I know someone must like that), or going for morning swims? Perhaps you too can get in touch with the spirit of summer break just a bit this year by bringing a bit of it into your life for a day, week, or month.