The summer of 30 has taken over my group of friends. I am 29; I’ve got one more year to go. Yet for as much as I’ve flown the “summer’s not over until we say it’s over” banner, the truth is, I have already begun to feel 30’s effect. There is something decidedly different about this summer. It’s quieter. It’s less hot. The weekends, even ones away, are just weekends rather than each one a potentially life-changing adventure. The months are enjoyable, not the best ever. Way better than winter. The nights are shorter than we remember because we make them so. There are a lot of weddings, a lot more (than there were) babies, less single antics and new couplings-off. We no longer move as this massive, amoeba-like crew. Group chats are on simmer rather than boil. As a general life policy, most of us stopped doing shots.
Through this lens, it sounds a little sad. But while I’m well-aware that my mentality could change next May come my three-decade-solid formative age, I think I am okay with all of this. I think it’s okay that this is not the “most epic” summer of our lives, that September won’t arrive and cause us to caption every single photo with “take me back.” I think we’re somewhere between looking forward and for once, living in the allusive present. Sort of. I think that’s the best way to identify this discomfort.
For sure, the sparkly allure of June, July and August dims when you’re not free from school for three months straight. Adult summers are slightly soured by the fact that this season holds all the same responsibilities and to-do lists. When we were kids, though, was it really the lack of school that made summer special, or was it our willing suspension of disbelief that allowed us to pretend the real world was on hold? Was summer magic, or were our eyes easier to trick? I mean, yes and yes.
At some point, people grow up. That does not mean we crust over. In comparison to grandparents, mountains and trees, we are young. Our joints are still lubricated by gumption. We are driven and ambitious and eager, and all of that. If we were immortal before, we’ve at least inherited a lifetime of summers, but now, more than anything, summers are no longer our only chance to live.
September — still summer, still far off, brings promise. October is beautiful and will forever smell like bottled autumn. November brings together family. December is cozy. January is invigorating, February’s introverted, March is hopeful, April blooms the restorative spring season and May straightens its shoulders and raises a trumpet toward summer, sounding the familiar song that all of us grew up humming.
Wrapped inside those months are the kinds of days that turn us into people. Real people. In part, that’s exactly what we dread: harsh realities, hardships, tough shit, loneliness, empty mornings of what the actual hell am I doing, stress, responsibilities, worries, realized fears, pain. The people we were last summer had already felt all those things, of course, but it’s easier to wax nostalgic on a golden beam in a vacuum than it is to realize happiness is not based on the calendar. Not really.
At the end of every August I used to ask my friend Sara if we’d ever have fun again, and each September was like experiencing a fresh broken heart for the first time. It was unimaginable to think of an off-season time that would cause me to laugh or smile. Any hope of a fairytale felt out of reach, trapped in a glass bottle until next season. As I write this, I don’t feel like that. I think it’s because, after 29 summers, I know that what follows is an ebb and flow of good things to come and great things to appreciate in the meantime. We always have fun again. Adventures don’t just stop forever.
Photos by Edith Young.