Exactly three years ago, I told a complete stranger—a man who lived alone in a lighthouse 9 months out of the year and then housed lifeguards for the summer months, that I was sad the summer was over. I was saying this to a man who would undoubtedly spend the next nine months alone. And all he said to me was, “There will be more.”
His wise words stuck with me, but I still wanted an “endless summer.”
What’s an endless summer, you ask?
To me, that elusive endless summer is a summer without end. Sounds pretty self-explanatory, right? Well, the word summer doesn’t just have to denote a season. In a lot of ways, for me, it is all about a particular trio of months on the calendar. But summer is other things, too. It’s more of an ideal. As an American growing up in the United States, summer (the last week of June through the first three weeks of September) meant certain undeniable facts:
- No school
This isn’t true in all countries. It’s especially apparent in my life now, because I teach middle and high school students in South Korea. For them, summer probably has many of the same connotations—like ice cream and swimming pools—but 3 months without school is not one of them. My Korean students have a total of 1 to 2 weeks of summer vacation. Then it’s back to the classroom in the sweltering heat for, sometimes, depending on the situation, over 12 hours a day.
- Summer heat affects our decision-making.
This is not necessarily a good or a bad thing. The things that we may or may not do are already inside of us. Sparing you the science of it all, it’s a fact that our bodies work hard to maintain homeostasis, and the summer heat disrupts this balance. Our bodies must work harder to stay neutral; therefore, we use more energy. Throw in sweaty bodies, pool parties, beaches, bikinis, and alcohol, and, undoubtedly, your decision-making—for better or for worse—is affected.
- Everything is brighter in the summer.
I can’t understand people who dislike summer. And perhaps they can never understand me. Summer makes me happier than any other time of year. I can feel it in my bones, on my skin, in my very cells. I like the way my skin darkens and changes, like a lonely and desolate winter morphs into spring. The result is warmth and happiness.
I never even heard the phrase “The Endless Summer” until college, and I certainly hadn’t seen the movie. But the more I thought about the phrase, the more I wondered if an endless summer was even possible.
I would joke with friends about it, and every time summer came around, we would plot our strategies for finding the elusive endless summer. Was it something we could find and hold onto? Did it belong in one place, like on an island or a particular country or location that only experienced warm weather? Or was it a state of mind, going beyond the dimensions of time and space?
What the hell was the endless summer?
The more I asked myself this question, the more I wanted the answer.
I used to think that I wanted money or fame—things that would allow me to find the endless summer— things that would unbind me from the obligations and restrictions of daily life. But even money and fame don’t really do those things. Sometimes they can bind you even further. I wanted everything. But I realized this:
“Wanting everything splits you into pieces. First, I must find my focus. Then, it won’t matter what I have.”
Writing is my focus. I want to write about the things that make up and influence my life. Many people say they want happiness. And that would be nice, too. But I realized it’s not what I want, exactly. Of course it would be great to be happy, but happiness isn’t an object; it’s a talent. It’s something you need to work at, more than it is something you attain. Some people are better at being happier than others.
Contentment, peace, and happiness—they’re not necessarily all the same thing. Life will never be an endless high, and finding happiness or peace is being able to deal with the changes in life in a healthy way no matter what season it is.
I recently told a friend who was traveling all over the world that he was so lucky because he was free and didn’t have to worry about money or showing up for a job, and he said he did have financial constraints, of course, and that his journey would end, and then he would have to find a job again. I wondered if that type of life was sustainable. For some it is. And then the last thing he said struck me. He said, “I travel the world in style, but not because I’m free. I do it because I’m not free.”
Part of me understands what he means, but part of me never will.
And now, even as I finish writing this post, I think that my thoughts have changed since writing the first word on the first day of summer (yes this post has spanned the entire summer). I thought summer was a black and white thing—either its summer or its not, but I believe I have discovered some gray in this equation.
In a black and white drawing, there is always shading. There is always gray. The dark is used to amplify the light, and great artists, such as Rembrandt use stark contrast, or chiaroscuro, so that the viewer can appreciate what is going on.
In that same vein, we have other seasons or other pieces of mind to help us appreciate what is not summer. Summer may be great for me, you, or someone who experiences the change of seasons, but for those who live in places with only summer, with wet and dry seasons, it could be eternal damnation. They must constantly find places to keep cool, or ways to protect their skin.
Some people experience cold summers and warm winters. And while a warm heart is better than a cold one, keeping your cool is better than having a hot head. I guess it just depends on how you look at the situation.
One friend said this when I asked: “How do you feel about the end of summer?”
“I like new beginnings. I don’t lament endings. I get excited about new seasons.”
The endless summer, for some people, can mean swimming pools, devilish heat, beach parties, barbeques, ice cream trucks, World Cups and Summer Olympics, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s a state of mind. To me, the Endless Summer is the promise of another day, a new adventure, or days without end, whether in this life or the next.
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
How do you feel as the summer ends?
Want to hear more from me?