Every year as summer approaches, I anticipate the best to an unreasonable degree. My mind, heart, and body expect idyllic weather every day, music that makes me feel like I’m in a Calvin Harris music video, and—when I was single—a number of summer crushes worth texting my best friends about. But if I were to reflect on memories of summers past, there would only be one overwhelming theme: pressure.
For me, summer isn’t just ripe with high hopes, it’s ripe with stress—the stress to make sure that this summer is the best, the one that finally lives up to the expectations set by teen movies and doesn’t end with a chorus of if onlys. And every year, but especially this year, I rely on summer to be the release of my emotional pressure valve. It’s always easier to find the light when the sun stays up past 8 p.m.
My obsession with willing the perfect summer into existence has manifested in a number of ways. I’ve road-tripped to music festivals in beat-up vans, sat around bonfires on the beach, and drunk so much rosé I can no longer stand the stuff. But still, at the close of every season, I always feel like it wasn’t enough. Even now, just a few days in, it already feels like this summer is slipping through my fingers.
I always expected that as I got older, wiser, and less interested in staying up past 2 a.m, my summer stress would loosen its hold on me. But what I’m beginning to realize is that growing up doesn’t have to mean growing out of summer, it just means reassessing what it means to truly make the most of my favorite months. There are so many ways to enjoy the literal and metaphorical fruits of summer that “making the most of it” can actually be quite low-key and delightful—it simply requires a mindset shift. So below I’ve compiled a short list of things to do this summer that may never feature in a coming-of-age blockbuster, but just might ease the burden of summer scaries.
Buy and devour—not simply eat—a mango.
Go to the grocery store. Stand in front of a mound of mangos. Pick them up one by one and hold them in your hands like they are weighty golden goose eggs. Hold one close enough to your face to take a whiff and remember that one of the best things about summer is the fruit it brings—a moment of mango mindfulness. Take the best one home and slice the cheeks yourself, remembering the entire time that you can’t have this experience in the winter.
Get up early.
Staying up late is the easiest way to become both tired and wired. Thankfully, the extra daylight hours that summer brings are just as magical in the morning. Taking a walk before your favorite coffee shop even opens still counts as making the most of summer days, it just isn’t also hangover-inducing.
Then, have a Summer Night In.
During winter, I’m more than happy to spend a Friday or Saturday night at home watching a movie, because I assume everyone else is doing the same. But when the weather’s warm, I’m overcome with the feeling that everyone else is having all-caps FUN all the time, while I’m letting my own summer waste away every time I stay in. Since I know that’s deeply irrational (and part of why a lot of people find the summertime incredibly isolating and sad), I’m proposing more guilt-free nights in. Swap The Holiday for Blue Crush and your popcorn for kettle corn, open a window, and away you go—an ideal summer night.
Put your feet in the grass.
Unlike airplanes, parks are the perfect place to take your shoes off. Spread your toes and plant those bad boys in the nearest patch of green. I can’t explain the science of why—though I’m positive there would be some—but putting my bare feet on the earth just feels… grounding.
Eat your dinner al fresco.
If you go to a restaurant, wait for a table outside instead of settling for one hidden in a dark corner. Get a meal to-go and eat it in a park. Carry your dinner plate to your roof. Open a window in your dining room and sit as close to it as you can while you eat. There’s nothing more delightful, or summery, then eating with a breeze for company.
Enjoy an impromptu ice cream.
It’s not even July and I have already ticked this off my list, somersaulting myself into summer. The thing to remember about this tip is that the ice cream (or popsicle—either will do) cannot be planned. No, it needs to be a surprise. You might be walking through a park, or leaving work, or en route to meet your friend for coffee—when you see a van/street vendor/bodega and decide, spur of the moment, to get a frozen treat because it’s summer and there’s literally no reason not to.
And remember that, sometimes, doing something once is enough.
I’m not about to do away completely with my summer expectations, because despite the pressure, they encourage me to have fun. But this year, I’m going to remind myself that doing something once still counts as doing it. I don’t have to go to the beach every weekend, have an Aperol spritz every night, or watch the sunset on a rooftop every Friday to have the summer 2019 of my dreams. If I want to do all those things, which I do, I can make peace with doing them when the opportunities arise. Removing the expectation that peak summer activities need to be the norm allows me to redefine what it means to make the most of summer—which is exactly what I need.
Do you have any other tactics for avoiding summer scaries? If so, please share your suggestions!
Photo by Edith Young.