Uncertain Summers

memory and loss

As a child, growing up in the United States, our lives flow around the September-June cycle of the school year. Autumn signals new clothes and an assortment of pens and notebooks for the classroom, winter hints at building snowmen on the playground, spring brings more gleeful smiles and the itch to abandon the classroom, and, finally, summer---the season in which our routines change. As a child, summer quickly became a season marked by less school, more exploration, and more quenched curiosities. As a young adult, eight out of the past nine summers, have begun with plane tickets, visas, and a packed bag. Summer meant leaving home, continuing the exploration and often times expanding the sense of curiosity. Summer meant touching, feeling, and experiencing what I longed for from the corners of libraries where I spent nine months each year. Although May is the month of the greatest transitions of my life, packing up my big blue backpack in May is a routine. Items that I pack are carefully chosen, hoping to be of use within the uncertainty of the experience. The only certainty in packing is that change and exploration will be a part of the experience. This May, I finished school for the last time and I packed up my bedroom. I put the backpack, and many other suitcases, in the back of my car. No plane tickets or carefully packed items this May. The first day of June brought the beginning of my second adult summer in the United States and with it a familiar wave of exploration and yearnings.

While I begin to map out the next step, or, what in so may ways, feels like the first step, I find myself desiring stillness and a quieter mind. This “time off” or “time to figure out what I really want” is about listening. It is about centering myself around a vision for my life. Yet, the yearnings for other moments---nostalgia for past moments and longing for potential future moments creep in. My answer to anyone’s question about what I am doing is: “laying on the floor, writing in my journal, and I don’t know.” The latter of which is the only truth in the sentence. Yet, the image of lying on a cold tile floor feels healing, and brings me back to a white tile floor that I spent many hours stretched out on digesting days in the field in Rwanda.[gallery]

Yearnings for the past and future quickly turn to memories, which seem vividly recalled based on a certain emotion or desire that exists in the present. Memories pull me back to childhood summers. Images of late nights at summer camp, huddled around a flashlight; of teenage summers, complete with long bike rides due to the lack of a driver’s license; and, of the sound of my family’s backyard on summer evenings, where the sounds of crickets blend into laughs coming from a croquet game. The fluid pace of the memories slows to rest on these tangible past moments, seeking to syphon off emotions from the memories, to re-create this sense of “memory-worthiness” in the current summer. There are memories to be made this summer, but they do not yet feel captured in time, only in hues on Instagram.

On the porch on long summer evenings, I push my thinking forward, briefly leaving the memories, and moving to the next steps. Pondering creating a life that doesn’t get up to explore new dreams in new places each summer, to a life that is 10% more predicable than the most recent incarnation, to a life with a slightly more stable community. Yet, it feels that the two halves of my brain run against each other, playing tug-of-war, and pulling me backwards into childhood unattached freedom, yet forwards into the next move, yearning for stability. I remain physically stuck in the middle, attempting to throw away any resemblance of adulthood, to let the childhood memories seep in---to joyfully spend summer evenings riding my bike, to play so hard on the beach that I am sore for days, to sit on the porch or curl up in my tent as the light fades---to embrace the uncertainty of the moment and to simply enjoy existing---even if just for these few months. Knowing that these memories will be ones I revisit from the next version of my life.