Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Summer-time Blues

It's the beginning of July, and the sun has finally made an appearance. Living in the lower mainland of British Columbia, I've come to expect that the four seasons of the year won't be as clearly defined they are in other parts of the world. Sure, we have snow in the winter and some sun in the summer, but there's our favourite 'frienemy', rain, who loves to show up uninvited. I'm not nearly educated enough in the inner workings of this globe we live on, but it seems to me that seasons just aren't what they used to be. Seems to me that we may need to update which days mark the beginning and end of a season. We really only need three seasons to categorize the kind of weather we get: Summer for the sunny days, Winter for the snowy days, and Normal for the rainy days.

It has taken me a long time to train my mind not to be so mood-dependant on the weather. I think that Season Affective Disorder is real, sure, but I also think that every single person has some form of it. Who doesn't get a little bummed out when it's a gray, foggy, rain-pissing kind of day? My least favourite kind of weather is overcast, gray from end to end. I don't mind rain, but at least make it exciting. If it's a light drizzle, it's going to bother me. If it's a torrential downpour, now that's some weather. At heart, I'm a sunny day kind of guy.  Blue skies are beautiful, throw in a few non-threatening fluffy clouds, and a nice view of that flaming ball we call the Sun, and I'm happy. Unfortunately, I live in completely the wrong geographic region for my weather preferences. I choose to live here, so I try not to complain too much about the 9 months of rain we get a year. Could be worse, I could live in London, right?

It's always been intriguing to me, how weather is one of the first topics we jump to when faced with 'small-talk'. I try to avoid as much as possible, it just seems like a cop-out to say 'So, shitty weather today, eh?'. There must be something more interesting in either of our lives to talk about. There must be. But it makes sense, because it's something we can all relate to. No one ever says, 'Oh, the weather? You mean outside? No, I don't go there. I never notice it. What's rain?'. Everyone has to deal with the weather, so everyone has an opinion about it. You might be asking: If it's not good enough for small-talk, how can the weather be interesting enough for a whole blog post? My official answer is: Since the weather effects everybody, so much so that we actually have a depressive disorder dedicated to it, then it's an interesting topic for pretty much anybody. My unofficial answer is: I woke up, saw the sun, thought about summer, and wanted to write.

Now let's take a look at how the meaning of the Summer season changes through-out the various stages of life:

As a child - Summer is primarily designed for children. With the weather, the heat, the parks and beaches, the playground, it's the best possible setting for everything an adventurous, playful kid likes to do. In elementary school, it's all about making it to June. Those three months where we're free to do whatever we like. And as a child, you don't really notice as days, weeks, months pass by. You live the routine that someone else has chosen for you, and eventually, every year, you're set free into a sunny wonderland for 3 months. You know that you'll have to return to the regular routine at some point, but you're much more interested in seeing how long you can hang on to the monkey bars. For the children stuck in year-round schoolings: I mourn for you.

As a teenager - In your teen years, when you're stuck in high school every day, it's really all about the long wait until summer. Unlike being a child, now you know full well that when the semester ends, you'll be set free. So the wait can become unbearable, especially in the April/May/early June period when it's starting to get sunny but you're still trapped inside, listening to Mr. Whosawhatsa rattling on about who knows what. Once summer comes, it's all about sleeping in, lazy afternoons, and super late nights. Summer is usually when you make all the fun mistakes that either ruin your life, momentarily, or help you grow. It's like 3 months of Friday and Saturday nights. Being a post-pubescent hormone machine is one thing, but the summer months mean: short-shorts, dresses, bikini tops, shirtless guys. It's a great time for any age, really. However, there's a dark cloud that lingers overhead: you know that, eventually, September will come. This dreary anticipation can be enough to ruin August for some people. But teenagers should appreciate every summery moment they have, because this will likely be the last stage in your life that you get an official summer.

As a young adult - This is where it gets trickier to define. The summer experience greatly depends on the choices that you've made, post high-school. Personally, I went right to college in the September after graduation. For the first couple years, I absolutely swore off summer semesters. However, I still had a mostly full-time cooking job, so often the sun was enjoyed through a window, or on my walk to work. Then, when I moved up to university, summer semesters became a necessity for graduating within my planned schedule. Luckily, univerisity isn't all-day-every-day, so some summer fun could still be enjoyed. For those who skipped the education route and went right into working, then they've skipped ahead to the adult stage, which I'll cover next. Then, there are those who decide to go off and travel, which means that their summer can last for as long as they're away. It's around this point that June/July/August stop being super special, and start to become just another month in the year.

As an adult - Now, I'm still in the young adult stage, so I can't speak from my own experience for this stage. But from what I've observed, summer becomes a bitter period of time for most adults. I'm mostly speaking about the full-time career 9am-5pm kind of workers. Sure, you can save up vacation time, but at this point, summer really just is another set of months in the year. Weekends are still great, if you're lucky enough to get good weather, but weekends become super mini-sized versions of summer, and Sunday becomes August, where you know that it'll end soon and you'll be back to the grind. If you have kids, it's even worse, because you have constant reminders of the fun you used to have during these summer months. I'm obviously generalizing here, there are a wide variety of jobs and lifestyles that allow for summer to be enjoyed. But in my experience, typical adults view summer in a bittersweet light, more for nostalgia than current joy.

As an old person - At this point, I'm just speculating, but I suspect that summer can be quite troublesome for senior citizens. With the added pressure of heat comes sweat, chaffing, and the threat of heat-stroke or some other ailment. The old body doesn't work quite like it used to, so summer can't be enjoyed the way you used to be able to. I'm sure most older people still love the sun and nature, but visiting the beach and hiking and water sports are pretty much out of the question. And, depending on how old you are, you probably can't even remember your childhood, so in your mind, summer has always been a hassle, a tease, an unattainable dreamland of bikinis and late nights.

I believe, no matter what stage of life you are in, that summer can be enjoyed. Even if you take an evening walk in a park, or by the river. Even if you roll down all the windows and blast Tom Petty on the way to or from work. Even if you can only go to the beach on Saturday afternoon. As long as the sun is out, there is a way to appreciate it and live the summer lifestyle. It's too easy to get caught up in the drama of being an adult, we forget about the innocent inner child who just wants to play. Most of the year, we get rain, some snow, and mostly shitty weather. When the sun does come out, I encourage you not to dwell on how long it took to show up or how little it's going to last, just summon your inner child or teenager and go party it up in the sunshine.

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