In Memoriam: Summer Vacation
I’m a guy who needs breaks.
Take this article, for instance. Before typing this sentence, I checked Facebook, Twitter, Google News, and strolled by Time magazine’s website, which I haven’t done in ages. Then, on a whim, I decided to try and make iced coffee out of regular drip coffee, which, after tasting it, made me really appreciate places that do that professionally. Then I thought about making a Pinterest account, decided against it, and paid some bills instead — which of course required my downloading a bill-organizer iPhone app. Which required reading up on the best bill-organizer iPhone apps.
Actually, that sounds more like procrastination than break-taking.
But that’s how I operate. In a couple paragraphs, I’ll need a snack. I can already feel it. And it’s the same way in other areas of my life. At work — like actual work with people who are grown-ups — I have to resist the urge to take “breaks,” which others call “disappearing for about an hour and aimlessly wandering around the neighborhood” or “naps.” When I’m reading, I’ll often read a couple pages, stop, look up at the ceiling to process what I read, then go back to reading. If you’re looking for ways to get funny looks, that’s a good one.
The evolution of summer break
Summer vacation is the biggest break of them all. That’s partly because of the lore that’s been built up around it over time. Ever since school started being a thing, kids couldn’t wait for those three months a year when it’s not. It’s a time of year to do all that stuff that feels better knowing you don’t have to wake up for class the next day, which is to say all stuff. It was also a constant — something kids everywhere (from kinder to college) use to inject themselves with motivation during the school year. Motivation which, unfortunately for teachers everywhere (from kinder to college), completely runs out a full month before the last day of school.
I never had the adventure-filled, picturesque summer breaks that Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn had, nor did I break into hotel swimming pools or hang out at truck stops just to pass the time, as as The Ataris did. But it was always a time of respite for me, where I could fully enjoy a responsibility-less state. That’s a hard platform to stand on when your parents are suggesting you get a job, but I stood strong. I loved the freedom of summer break, when sleeping in or sitting around wasn’t something to be guilty about, and doing something fun wasn’t tainted by the knowledge that time is limited.
Appreciation for summer evolves with age. Like many, I was a stupid kid, so I didn’t fully realize what I had until my mom was taking me to shop for new uniforms, by far the worst trip of the entire year. In high school, with The Ataris’ help, I realized that summers were sacred. Then college came, and summers started filling up — with trips, jobs and tasks. Those were great, but it was often hard to find time for respite among the busyness, which would only get crazier when the semester began.
And now here I am, writing an article, as my editor so eloquently/knife-in-the-heart-ingly put it, “mourning summer vacation.” I’ve started to feel it, too — the weather’s getting prettier, graduation season is nearing its end, and my beach body has been ready for months, but still, I’m expected to go in to work. (Every day!) Still, the rent must be paid. Still, the music on the radio transitions to the inevitable summer jams, with their light, airy and unmistakably happy feel, because how can you not be happy when it’s summer?
Except I’m listening to those songs in my car, on the way to work. And God smirks.
But hey, me and summer vacation had a good run. I also can’t overemphasize how much more awesome weekends become when school ends and real work starts. At one point, I caught myself considering marking the weekend on my calendar as “The Weekend,” just in case it slips my mind somehow, which it most certainly never will. (I think that’s a normal recent-college-grad-transitioning-to-adulthood thing.)
And because a lot of questions would be asked and a lot of paychecks cut off if I decided to go ahead and celebrate summer vacation anyway, I’ve got to create my own, so to speak. So not only do weekends become sacred, but so do evenings and mornings and any time I’m not at work, really. It’s not that I don’t like work; I do. It’s just that there’s a sacredness to respite just like there’s a sacredness to work, and I don’t want to lose either. Honoring one is what allows me to fully appreciate the other, and even though that balance still eludes me sometime, and even though I’ve got a 9-to-5 that sometimes starts earlier and sometimes ends later than that, I still think I can use the words of The Ataris’ Kristopher Roe in “In This Diary” as a sort of guiding principle:
The only thing that matters / is following your heart / and eventually you’ll finally get it right.
So laugh it up, high schoolers. You may get three months off, but I’m going to take advantage of this weekend in ways you can’t even fathom.
But first I’m sleeping in.