I spent most of my summers throughout childhood and college essentially living in camp clothes: hand-me-down gym shorts and various selections of past day camp and volleyball shirts. I attended and then volunteered at the local Girl Scouts camp from ages 12 to 17 and during college worked at the Newark Parks and Recreation Department at Rittenhouse Day Camp (not to show off, but I was promoted midway through my first summer from junior to senior counselor and took over the Arts & Crafts Director position my last year). While I did work outside during the humid Delaware summer, most of our daily schedule led to hanging out in the creek. We even went to a water park for a field trip. My day also wrapped at 3 pm, when I then headed to an air-conditioned gym to workout for about two hours and then headed home (along with climbing the counselor ranks, I was disciplined in shedding my freshman fifteen). When I started working full time in 2010 in New York City, I was very ill-prepared in dressing as a working adult in a city that's essentially a parking lot. I learned this lesson asap when I arrived at an interview dripping in sweat wearing some blouse and pencil skirt ensemble from H&M. I did get the gig and the rest is history, but it was the start of a growing annual awareness that I do not do well working an office job in the summer.
I remember when I first started working full time and learning about this concept of the "Summer Friday". Growing up, my family didn't "summer" in remote, glamorous locations. Our vacations meant piling into a van for a multiple-day roadtrip to visit family or heading to a weekend of sailing when my parents would let themselves take time off from their small business. I was aware that other kids used the summer to go to Disney World or to their family beach houses, but the idea of spending a month in the south of France or going to resorts in general was something I didn't know existed. When I was twenty-two and an official full-time grown up, being able to get a few hours off of work on Fridays during the summer was the greatest thing, mostly just to head to happy hour early.
In the subsequent years that followed, each summer has become harder and TAXING. I don't know if patience just evaporates the older you get or maybe I finally am a true New Yorker, but my hot take is that the summer in New York is only great if you can escape it. While my husband and I live relatively comfortably (I don't need to shop solely at Trader Joe's anymore), I feel I'm in a stage of constant compromise when it comes to acquiring some form of leisure and luxury during the hot summer months as an adult. I have a decent sized apartment but only two AC window units. I make a delicious homemade cake for a friend's party and also bring a kiddie pool I bought with Amazon points. I take the Rockaway Ferry for two hours to get to Jacob Riis where I can afford the BIG frozen drink. I have a tiny rotation of beautiful linen articles of clothing that may be from Nordstorm, or the GAP. I'm far off from picking up to go to Montauk or heading off to Greece for a full month.
I tend to be a hardworking, goal-oriented and focused person 80% of the year, but June and July hit me hard and this year was the worst by far. Once the temperatures hit the high 80's I become a highly diluted version of myself. Not only has it been the hottest July on record, but I just started a new gig that led me to have to focus on a lot of "adult" things, like figuring out what health insurance we had to buy, which was certainly stressful and led me to desperately needing time to relax and unwind. But I can't jet off to France for a month or the Hamptons for a weekend. I'm not sure if I ever will. Whenever I think of the concept of jetting off during the summer, I immediately think of two places I worked at where the senior folks would literally take over a month off in August or worked remotely for half the week in the Hamptons, leaving everyone else killing time and sweating at the office. If it's mandatory that you must summer in a different country or escape to the beach and you own a business with employees, you should allow them the same courtesy.
As someone coming from a family of both educators and farmers, I'm well aware that the whole concept of summer vacation was created solely because of the agricultural industry. As someone who does not currently need to work outside for a living (I'm no longer Reb Carlson, Camp Counselor) but instead is in the professional service industry, everyone who is a boss or a client can afford and utilizes the luxury of summering somewhere that is not where they are 80% of the year. Which means, when they are not in the office, my work steadily decreases. And as each summer becomes progressively hotter, the pain of figuring out what to wear, how to survive the subway, and not show up to the office as a puddle of sweat, only to see that everyone's out of office email is still up, I wonder...where is my siesta?
I was reading the New York Times' collection of "Summer's Hottest Takes" and this one gave me pause:
"Air-conditioning and the internet ruined summer as a leisure period.
I doubt you will find that people in France hate summer because they TAKE AUGUST OFF like any sensible people should and go to the beach or the mountains. We hate summer because we want to be doing nothing and we are increasingly in a society forcing us to do something. Air-conditioning is the first culprit here."
My personal vice is humble bragging about studying abroad in Italy and vacationing in Lisbon in 2017, the latter of which I remember as being the hottest weekend of the month in Portugal and learning that air conditioning is not a thing but siestas are. It's getting hotter every summer - where is my midday nap? I'm over thirty and I would love to get back on a nightlife schedule of disco napping until 9 pm and staying out until 3 am.
Everyone has met that tourist who complained that siestas in European countries are inconvenient, but they are denying the fact that air conditioning is leading to the imprisonment of mid-level corporate America for 25% of the year. That is a full business quarter, and summer happens to be Q3, so why can't we agree that Q3 shouldn't exist and we should take the summer off, collectively? If Americans can't be on board with the European way of life, why not Australian? Australians go on an indefinite vacation every year and anyone who has traveled would be lying if they said they ever met an Australian who wasn't so fun and seemed so happy. We don't need air conditioning, we all need a month long vacation.
Ranting blog posts haven't been in style since my Xanga days, which is evidence enough that the summer heat and humidity has made me regress into a teenager. All in all, June and July gave me an excuse to take a break from all my daily to-do's, lean into feeling lazy, and having fun. I've been hitting my summer bucket list hard, including going to the beach multiple times, spending time with my sister and her kids (and their neighborhood pool), going to matinees, rooftop bars, backyard dinners, and late-night karaoke, with yes, rose on SOME days. My prioritizing hanging out and enjoying the outside for even just 20% of the year isn't so bad, especially with everything Eric and I have been through earlier in 2019.
There is some depressing Instagram quote other there about how "you only have so many summers". Instead of wishing you were summering in the south of France, just enjoy it the best way you know how. Be spontaneous, ask people to hang out, and get creative with how you spend your days. Enjoying a summer of leisure shouldn't be a luxury, but instead a state of mind.