So What if Summer Isn’t Life-Changing Now That You’re an Adult?

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.

Photography: Edith Young
Creation Direction: Emily Zirimis

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  • Emmie

    it’s cool bc we’ll never get summer in the UK ever again ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  • paulina

    Agree 100%. I’m 27, and this is the first summer that I’m not sad about missing “summer” opportunities. Instead, I’m having a more relaxed few months, then getting excited for cozy sweaters, wine, and hygge season.

  • AbiTX

    It’s too hot to have an epic summer. Also I’m a teacher so this is my chance to catch up on sleep and tv. I can party when it’s colder out

  • Amelia

    Amelia, this is really lovely writing. Though I think January is less invigorating and more a snowy, cold, dreary slap in the face.

    • Katrina Elizabeth

      And March is one month that always feels like two. So. Long.

  • Jennifer

    This post made me so nostalgic. I’m 37 and haven’t had an “epic” summer in quite some time, and that’s okay with me. I’ve come to enjoy the simplicity of this time of year — evening swims, grilling everything, linen dresses, bare feet, and walks at dusk with my dog. The only thing I ever feel sad about (year after year) is the lack of a summer romance. Most of my single friends coupled up with someone special around May, which is exciting, yet (selfishly) I’m blue.

    • ValiantlyVarnished

      I’m the same age and feel the exact same way. Epic summers have come to mean something different for me: Usually relaxing. Which I’ve done a lot of this summer. Not having anything on my plate is nice. And all of my girlfriends are married or engaged (and my closest friend just had a baby last week!), so I’ve had some moments of loneliness (I’m single and not really looking right now anyway). I’m a loner by nature but not having anyone to hang out with at all has been bumming me out.

    • Kiks

      I’m 33 and married, and I too have been thinking about the “epic” summers of my past. On some level I miss when every summer weekend held the infinite promise of a new boy, a new adventure, a new life. Of course, none of those summer boys ever turned into anything worthwhile…and the only life you can depend on is the one you build for yourself.

      I went on my first date with my husband on October 1st, 2012. I think I like autumn best now.

  • Andrea Raymer

    this was so beautiful and nostalgic and makes me sad but in a good way.

  • Andrea

    Thank you so, so much for this. I needed it. I had a glorious summer last summer, filled with boys and adventures every evening, but this summer has been distinctly sadder for me. I’m lucky that my job has been so interesting and impactful. But you’re right – maybe we’re just growing up, and “happiness is not based on the calendar.” So resonant.

  • Adrianna

    People blame adult responsibilities for limiting “epic summers,” but I think some people don’t realize those epic summers were probably financed by your parents. I spent my summers working to pay my rent. Now that I’m older, I can drink when I want, eat what I want, and actually pay for a trip.

    • ihaveacooch

      right? my parents didn’t have a ton of money growing up so my summers were never very exciting. we didn’t take cool trips and i didn’t get taken to a sleep away camp to see my summer friends. now, i use my weekends to visit museums, go to the park/beach and take a vacation.

      • Jennifer

        Same! My parent’s always took my brother and I on vacation somewhere within a few hrs drive during the summer, but that ended around middle school. Working and taking extra summer school classes is how I spent June-August in hs and college. Planning a getaway is definitely a fun part of being an adult! 🙂

      • Adrianna

        A lot of this stuff came up when I started dating my boyfriend. He was incredulous that I had never gone kayaking or sailing, or didn’t really know how to swim. His mom was able to afford to send him to camp and live in a nice enough town with a public pool.

        The good news is, I’m enjoying adulthood because I’m having these experiences for the first time

      • ValiantlyVarnished

        True. I was raised by a single mother so summer vacays were out of the question. But we went to the park and the beach pretty much every weekend. And I have such vivid memories of playing outside with the neighborhood kids until sundown (which was 8pm – SUPER late in kid time).

        • Adrianna

          Yeah looking back on it I understand why my mom took us to the local park on a regular basis in the summer. I was entering my lazy phase and would have preferred to watch TV indoors. It was how she could provide us with some summer variety/activities and to get out of our tiny apartment.

    • EP

      Thank you! Being an adult IS fun. Enough nostalgia for youth. I am happy to have some money and independence.

    • Lil

      I’m barely starting to have epic summers as an adult since my parents couldn’t afford a babysitter, summer camp, or any sort of vacation period.

      As a kid I either watched tv all day or played outside from dusk til dawn unsupervised. It taught me a lot about being independent and street smart, literally.

      A lot of my friends still can’t wrap their minds around how I’ve never done a lot of typical summer stuff until recently and with them.

      • Adrianna

        yep, same here. Someone I met in college had the gall to complain to me that she should receive financial aid bc her family can’t afford their 2-month-long international vacations anymore X_X

      • Shevaun

        This was my summers too! Sometimes an aunt or my grandma would take us camping, but my parents would usually have to stay behind to work.

        Even recently I had to stay in the city during the summer because I was working and broke and I was so envious of all my Toronto classmates who could go “cottaging” because their parents had that kind of money. 🙄😒

    • EmUhLee

      Ugh, yeah. When I was a kid I hated summer vacation after about two weeks. Watching TV gets boring if that’s all you can do when you’re locked in the house all day.

      • Adrianna

        Me tooooo

  • Shevaun

    I don’t think I’ve ever had an epic summer.

    Oh shit wait, maybe it was the summer of 2014 when I watched a bunch of anime and played a ton of basketball and smoked a lot of weed.


  • ValiantlyVarnished

    I so agree with this. I used to dread September and Fall. It used to feel like a death or an ending to me. Except last year – I actually really enjoyed Fall. And though Winter was tough I created my own little cocoon within my room that I dreamed about every day and rushed home to be in after work. I realized last week – that I’m actually looking forward to Fall and Winter (though not the below zero temps, snow and ice that accompanies it here in Chi-town). I have enjoyed Summer, but I no longer feel like I’m falling into an abyss when it ends. Each season has it’s joys and I’ve begun to embrace them all. Plus- Fall fashion is waaay more fun than Summer fashion!

  • Holy shit, Amelia. This is beautiful!

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    wow this is GORGEOUS.

  • Andrea

    I heart you, Amelia. “Our joints are still lubricated by gumption.” Summer isn’t life-changing as an adult. Not much is. But I agree with VV – the other seasons get better and overall life turns into a steady, great time rather than the highs and lows of summer vs. winter and all the other extremes that we feel when we’re younger and giddier and full of raging hormones

  • Emma MacHugh

    This was so well written. Props.

  • Micah Lpez

    “May straightens its shoulders and raises a trumpet toward summer, sounding the familiar song that all of us grew up humming.” Amazing!!!!!

  • Christel Michelle

    *waits for you to write a book* This hit me right in the feels, wow.

  • I never had epic summers anyway. When I was in middle/high school, I spent my summer days holed up at playing The Sims and Gunbound nonstop. 😛

    Charmaine Ng
    Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  • SarahJoelleMeow

    This is lovely.

  • Jessie

    “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.” This writing made my heart sing. Thank you for this 🙂

  • Abbey Dandy

    I have been feeling depressed this whole summer. I expected to party with my friends and spend every other day floating the river. Instead, I have been in a perpetual cycle of work and school and I think what has made me so sad was just all of the expectation I had for what it would be.

  • “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.” – is it just me or is this Amelia’s version of Simon & Garfunkel’s April Come She Will?

    • G De Siena

      Or Amelia’s version of a T.S. Eliot poem 👏

  • gracesface

    When I lived in a region with four seasons summer was a “hell yes, yippee!!, woohoooooo!” season. Now, on my fifth summer in Texas I’m just so.sick. of the heat this year. Maybe it’s because I’m plus size, carrying some extra weight around and well, that’s extra work in 100 degree heat? Maybe it’s because after 5 years in the same place I want a change? I’ve never craved fall/winter like this before y’all…so yes, summer IS different the older I get.

  • EmUhLee

    I had epic summers during college, but now just a few years after graduation I feel like all my friends are already old people (i.e., we act like your description of 30-year-olds). We’re all coupled off, spend weekends doing domestic shit with our significant others and studying for grad school entrance exams, and rarely take shots. Is this normal for other people living in places that aren’t NYC?

    It makes me long for my misspent, raucous youth of only a few years ago. Sigh. Nowadays, summer is just the time when I drink slightly more flavored seltzer and get to wear cooler shoes.

  • Katrina Elizabeth

    I feel like I wasted this summer and began berating myself until I realized it has actually been too hot for most outdoor activities. It’s a weird thing to say, “too hot to go outside” but my days of nursing burns are over. I eagerly await September to go canoeing and hiking without fear of heat exhaustion.

    • Kiks

      I’m on Vancouver Island — usually the most temperate climate in the country, in the best way possible — and the last three weeks have brought nothing but 35 degree days, the last ten of them also filled with smoke from all of forest fires. It is NOT enjoyable to be outside. For the first time ever, I am aching for the autumn rain.

      • Katrina Elizabeth

        The smoke is horrible and has drifted its way into Alberta many times. I feel you.

  • Kristin

    Head of creative? New title who dis?
    Love this. But still kinda team loves summer…espadrilles and all white everything forever.

  • Maggie Lanham

    I was going to copy and paste a couple of my favorite lines from this and be like OmG YaAaS!!, but then it ended up being most of it. Really beautifully written, with nostalgia, hope, excitement, and contentedness in each word. A great reminder for us all, early twenties or early fifties (I also turn 30 in May!) that our days are what we make of them, and joy can be found in the passage of time. Loved it Amelia!

  • leonorjr

    this is beautiful, baby sparkles.

  • Hajni

    I actually couldn’t wait summer to be over the whole time. I didn’t have a nice holiday planned, only spent a week in my home country so there was not much to look forward to during summer. Also, I’m starting a new job in the end of August that I am super excited about. Plus the fashion is better at fall…

  • Biz Felker

    Great piece. Well done, Amelia.

  • Yeah, epic summers can be quite an elusive thing.
    They were until I got to decide how to spend them, aka adulthood. And they get better and better: must be because I passionately love jumping into a boat and paddling away, for days on end … (I got to discover my love for manual water travel around 28, so everything’s possible all the time 🙂

  • Catarina Oliveira

    Beautiful Amelia! The thing is that I have that since college ended and have to work through summer to have some money for some type of vacation that can be during summer or whenever the hell I want, now I can decide that 😉

  • Bree

    Amelia, your writing lately has been so beautiful x

  • Elisha E Li

    Lovely writing. How inspiring, Amelia! As a teacher with the summer “off”, sometimes I feel the pressure of having an epic summer. Many of my teacher friends are still having these epic summers – in Africa, in Cuba, in their house in Michigan, on a boat somewhere. I’m in the weird limbo of having a college students’ schedule, loving the nostalgia of summer, but also deep down I just want to sit in the AC and drink white wine, maybe take a sewing and pattern making class (which I did!)

  • Andrea

    Needed this! I’m only 23 and this summer has been full of more loneliness and FOMO than any of the ones before. I’m not that not-so-sweet spot of 2 years out of college where everyone has started to grown distant, or coupled up, and my single self feels out of the loop. I’ve been really hurting, but it’s nice to have the reminder that it’s okay, not every summer will be amazing or life changing, but that also doesn’t mean I won’t have exciting ones in my future.

  • In love with the way you just described each month can’t I get this as a print orrrrr?

  • Kayla

    Your writing here is so beautiful, Amelia. I am a senior in college finishing up my degree, honors thesis and trying to apply to PhD programs.. so needless to say, I have been dreading the coming months and longing for the promise (i.e. time to procrastinate) that I felt back in May. But each month has *just* as much of a reason to live fully as May or June simply because it is the time we are in now. Your description of each month had me tearing up in my tiny office. Maybe it’s PMS, but I really just think it’s the truth of your words that hit me so hard in the face telling me that I can’t sit around and wish it was a past time. Thank you!

  • Nathalie

    why did this make me cry? beautiful writing Amelia! And exactly what I’m feeling right now.

  • Laura

    Thank you so much for this article, Amelia! As a 22 year old growing up surrounded by other people’s seemingly perfect lives on Instagram, I’m always constantly worried that I’m not “living enough” – in a weird way, it’s as if there’s this pressure to experience every single thing sooner rather than later and the assumption that if you don’t or haven’t then eventually it might be too late to do it. I’ve always wanted to travel the world but it wasn’t until I was overflown with people’s perfect pictures of their travels on social media that I started to actually feel anxious that I wouldn’t have enough time to do it all in my lifetime, and especially that I had to do it while I was still young and had energy. I mean, why would I waste my golden years studying or even working? Nonsense.

    But after reading your article and all these people’s lovely comments on it, I realised that we are indeed young and we will have plenty of time to do everything we want. And I can’t wait to work my ass off to be able to go where I want, live where I want and eat what I want.

    Thanks you!