Summer’s Different When You Grow Up
Summers are different now. The broad daylight still stretches out late into the evenings and the gleaming sun still leaves streaks of pink and orange across the sky before it turns itself in for the night. Although the days are still long and the breezes still warm, things have changed.
We can still lie out in the grass and close our eyes — but only for a moment. We can still sleep late into the afternoon like summers passed — but only for one or two days a week. We can still stand outside and enjoy the view — but then we have to go back inside to work. Summer used to be a time of pleasant irresponsibility, absolute freedom and endless imagination; a place where a wonderfully blissful ignorance could freely romp and roam for two months of every year.
Our weeks used to be open, allowing us to disappear deep into console games or chapters of worn out Harry Potter books for hours or even days without concern of fitting it into a busy work schedule. TV sets were not turned to channels riddled with reports of violence, cynicism-inducing political rhetoric and celebrity gossip but instead filled with quirky Disney Channel sitcoms and made-for-TV movies that were bookmarked by those campy music videos that would play in between them instead of commercials. The fear of being unable to find a job wasn’t really a thought that crossed our minds — we were always too busy adventuring and exploring the far corners of our small and safe individual worlds. The only offices we entered were dental offices. Having “money” meant having just enough change to pick up a few five cent candies and a slushy from the local convenience store at the end of town under a soft afternoon sun.
During those summers, we didn’t have to know who we wanted to be or what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives because we could be anything we wanted at anytime. The only worry we really had back then was that school would come again soon in the fall.
Somewhere between the many Septembers and Junes, though, we grew up.
Apart from the green grass, nice weather and high temperatures, July and August are no longer different from the other months of the year. The irreplaceable sense of liberation has faded away along with our childhood.
Growing up is a tough concept to grasp at times. It can be strange to spend so much less time in the places we grew up in and it can be upsetting to no longer live amongst the people that raised us and it can be absolutely heartbreaking to see the people who’ve loved us for so long grow old and go. We aren’t someone’s “kids” in the same way that we were before and our parents aren’t “someone’s parents” in the same way they were before either. Goodbyes can feel like tectonic shifts and little changes can hit you like a shot in the heart.
But growing up isn’t bitter; it’s bittersweet.
There are some moments that will make you understand why Peter Pan never wanted to grow up. But there are also many more moments that make you wonder if the fantasy about the boy who never grew up is actually a tragedy about a boy who missed out on all the things that made life worth living.
We weren’t meant to roam around in Neverland forever.
We have to grow up. Otherwise, we’d be stuck in that same small world as a finite version of ourselves forever. We’d never grow into who we’re actually meant to be. We’d never learn to be responsible and independent or mature and wise. We’d never be able to see and explore the world and go to new places and meet new faces. We’d never find what we love to do or find who we love to be with or start a family of our own to also love and watch grow up. Growing up and all the heartbreaks and promises and failures and successes and insecurities and triumphs that come with it are what make us feel truly alive.
Growing up doesn’t mean that you have to leave the things you used to do behind completely or forget the person you used to be. Growing up isn’t forgetting. It’s more like that strangely nostalgic feeling you get when you turn the final page of a book and suddenly realize the adventure you’ve been immersed in for quite some time with its familiar setting, characters and plot has suddenly come to an end. Remember, you can always go back and re-visit those characters and re-read those chapters. It’ll never be the same as reading it for the first time but they’ll always be on the shelf beside you to open or skim through when you need to. Finishing a book actually gives us the opportunity to start a new one with its own settings, characters, plot lines and themes to experience, to love, to hate, and to learn and grow from once again. And there are many more books to read.