Forget Christmas in July, we want July at Christmas

Posted by Eli Horowitz on Friday, August 21, 2009
Let's start with the results of a totally unscientific poll that I conducted just now regarding the seasons:
  • "I am a summer person": 213,000
  • "I am a spring person": 10,900
  • "I am a winter person": 127,000
  • "I am a fall/autumn person": 23,660
(Source: Google)

Point being, if voluntary internet accounts are even close to representative, summer is a more popular season than every other season put together. So you have to ask: why? Well, in the words of our esteemed hostess, because "summer is crazy awesome in general." Insightful and succinct as always, but somewhat lacking in specifics, yes?

So, really: why? Allow me to present my theory: because summer, at least for those of us in the good ol' U.S. of A., is the season of independence and rebellion. Don't believe me? Ask Ashley, for whom "summer vacation first and foremost meant no school. What you did with your time instead of school, of course, was up to you." Even under the ostensibly watchful eye of camp counselors, babysitters, or other so-called authority figures, it was never hard to be, in the words of The National, a glowing young ruffian. But as high school and college and (guh) real life roll around, we start our long trudge up the corporate ladder, every rung removing us one step further from the adventurous and life-affirming freedom we feel is our summertime right. I guess for some people this journey isn't so bad: it's fulfilling enough to collect closets full of pastel-colored button-up dress shirts. But I suspect that that kind of person won't be reading this blog, so let me address the rest of you.

You want autonomy, the power to determine your own course (if not through life, at least through the day). That requires time. But you also have a strong sense of your own value, which means a life of easy freedoms will do more harm than good: it ain't hard to find the kind of part-time work that'll have you just scraping by, but who would want that life? So the kind of freedom you want requires both time and money, and quite possibly also a real job with real responsibility. But jobs, as we've learned from "Office Space" on, are the great freedom-slayers, malevolent, soul-crushing monstrosities that sustain our collective existence at the low, low cost of our individual lives. Which, then, do you give up? Do you sacrifice your potential to lead a life of relative liberty, or do you make the most of your adulthood and abandon your childhood?

The correct answer, obviously, is neither; the hard part is figuring out how. Here are some tricks that I've used to help allay the creeping unease that comes with a desk job in the suburbs, designed to work in all seasons*:
  • Ignore posted closing times. Parks, trails, buildings, swimming pools, concert venues, outdoor ice rinks - all of these and more are only really closed when somebody kicks you out. You never know just what you'll find when you aren't being shepherded around.
  • Make something. Whether it be practical or just cool, the experience of building something will leave you with (a) an item you didn't have before and (b) the knowledge of how to make an item that you didn't know how to make before. Who knows, you might even learn something.
  • Lie for fun. People, surprisingly, are really credulous. If you're clever enough, you can get them to believe almost anything. My personal favorite is to tell people that "vacuum" is spelled that way because, when they first made up the word, they thought it was an element - y'know, as in "vack-you-um." You'll need some imagination, a good poker face, and a flagrant disregard for basic ethics, but it's a hell of a lot of fun when it works.
  • Work on a non-work project at work. Learn magic tricks, write a novella, paint a mural on your sneakers, make a floor plan of your bedroom that's in accordance with feng shui principles - just do something not related to your job, with a defined endpoint, that you want to do but can never make yourself do in your free time. You're gonna waste the time anyway, you might as well put it to good use.
  • Take a nap.
  • Walk down the street and make eye contact with every single person you pass. Do your best not to be the one who looks away first - it takes some getting used to.
This list is only partial, of course, and you should feel free to use or tweak or add to or disregard any of the items thereon. But what you must remember is that the teenagers and twenty-somethings who couldn't fence you in as a kid are the same dull-eyed careerists who you think are in your way now. What's changed isn't anything fundamental to who you are - you're no less strong or creative or brave now than you were then, you're only taller and richer! The change is in how you've been taught to see the world: the teachers whose classes you dozed through are now the bosses in whose meetings you feel compelled to look attentive; your parents, whose rules you challenged at every step, have now been replaced by a million capital-lettered sans-serif signs that you obey without even thinking; and summer, rather than being the perfect opportunity to experiment, is a desperate rush to have all the fun you think you can't have in the other nine months.

Friends, I tell you that the solution is not to reclaim summer: one quarter of the year would be a paltry reward for any of us. The solution is to reclaim your life, all twelve months of it. Those bleak, imposing slabs you see all around you aren't walls, and they never were. They're dominoes, just waiting for the first push.

*Please note, though, that some or all of these may actually be illegal. In the case that any of these tricks might put you in legal jeopardy, I of course do not officially recommend it.



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