Our Summer: Reflections and Realizations
March 31, 2023
Reflecting on a Three-Month Period of Growth, Insight and Change
The summer of 2022 was my summer of reinvention.
The itching started in the beginning of May. My bones had grown too big for my body; the chaffing started in June, the fresh heat rubbing up against my brain, begging me to expand. The water didn’t roll until July; the dry warmth pressing into my lungs until, finally, the waves broke over my head.
As the discomfort spread through me, my head ballooning out and my ribs contracting in, I let the summer take me into its gentle arms.
Summer poked and prodded, shredding the glamor I held, finding the holes in the facade I kept pulled up around myself.
Every morning, in the quiet calm, I set out. Legs pounding against concrete, feet hitting pavement, arms pushing against the wind; running towards the day.
The humidity kissed my cheeks and left me glowing. My skin tanned and my hair lightened, my eyes sparkled with the joy of leading a life just for myself. The summer was quiet; contrasting the cluttered mess of constant sound I had grown accustomed to. Silence clouded around me, dulling my thoughts and taking hold of my hand.
I spent long afternoons curled on my porch chair, reading. I spent evenings outside, watching the fireflies flit about. On the hot, sticky afternoons I lay on the grass and whispered my secrets to the sky.
I felt the air around me, gulping in the life passing me.
That summer, I stole moments just for me. I let the world envelop me; laying in the water of Lake Michigan, giggling with the stars, finding peace in the ordinary.
One night, the sky was exceptionally beautiful and my heart was exceptionally heavy. The beach beckoned to me; my footprints left behind indents in the soft sand. The water slid against my arms, my body cutting through the heavy waves. My eyes drifted upwards, tipping my head back into the water, my hair pooling out behind me. I was young and I was changing, and what a beautiful thing that is.
I didn’t leave the water for a long time. When I finally pulled myself from the lake, I felt the stars rest their eyes on me, remembering who I was. So even if I didn’t have everything figured out, at least the summer recognized me.
There was no future for me; just the present. There was no start, no end. There was no stress, no worry, nothing but me and the sun warming my skin.
I knew my summer of revelation would come to an end; I would look back and remember that I was just a girl and it was just summer and really, biologically I am the same person looking towards the future. But for those three months, I was so much more than where I was going and who I was going to be.
Realizing How a Single Moment Can Abruptly End a Series of Good Memories
As a kid, I loved summer.
I would go to summer camp with sunscreen smeared all over my face and a backpack barely zipped up, a large beach towel and swim goggles poked through. Typically, my family and I would have a trip in August and our vacations always meant good food, overpriced souvenirs and plenty of sightseeing. Always eager to play outside, I’d pry open our old and tricky backyard door and as it swung open, I would run towards the tree I had climbed over and over again. Nestled comfortably between a couple branches, I would get lost in my imagination, listening to all the sounds of my backyard and beyond; my neighbor’s restless schnauzer; parties of birds flying overhead; the sound of water trickling slowly onto the pavement from our bright green garden hose.
But eventually, I grew out of summer camp, or rather it grew out of me. Accepting it was my last year as a camper at 11 years old, I felt the magic of summer slip away. I trudged forward with the summer while it lasted, with daily trips to the pool and popsicles melting all over my skin.
As much as I loved being outside and feeling the warm rays on my skin, something I never liked about summer was the humidity, especially during the night.
As the sun would set, I would lie in my bed with my sheets parallel to me — it was always too hot to actually sleep under them. Overheated and bored, I focused on the sounds of crickets and frogs which echoed in my room. Frustrated that their sounds kept me up, I tried to think of anything that would put me to sleep. I counted sheep and imagined what a perfect day would be. I even stole one of my mom’s old sleeping masks, but despised how the fabric felt on my face. By now, the simple task of falling asleep was deemed impossible; I was still wide awake. Accepting defeat, I sat up and stared into the backyard. It was dark, but I could still see the pond, seeing the swarm of lightning bugs illuminate the water. Tilting my head up, I traced an outline of the large tree centered right in the center of the backyard with my eyes. The chirps of the crickets and croaks of the frogs grew even louder.
Suddenly, I felt sick. To be honest, I don’t really know what happened. But I remember feeling like there was a heavy weight on my chest and breathing became difficult. It felt like all the childlike innocence in me evaporated.