When I was a boy, summer meant playing in the street with other kids from the neighborhood. Building tree houses, playing Cowboys and Indians, catching frogs and fireflies. We’d be allowed to go out again after dinner, the summer sun hanging alongside the buttery moon, playing in the lengthening shadows till we were called in for bed.
Some summers we’d spend all day, every day, at the public pool, playing Marco Polo, doing cannonballs from the diving board, lunching on hot dogs and ice cream sandwiches.
In high school, summer meant work and spending money. I worked in a record store, at McDonalds, in the dog pound, bussing tables in a bistro, blowing my earnings on Saturday night.
Summer broke the rhythm of the year, a time to do something different from sitting in class all day, to get sun burnt, mosquito bit, read trashy novels, to have new experiences, test myself, learn new skills: high diving, burger flipping, french kissing, deworming a stray. When I was in my thirties, a friend, an NYU academic with summers off, asked me, “So, what are your plans for the summer?” and I answered peevishly, “Same as the rest of the year. Summer means nothing to me. I have a job” And it was basically true. Summer as an adult just meant sweating in a suit, more tourists and broken air conditioning on the A train, lousy blockbuster movies, losing sunglasses, and maybe downing a cold beer on the fire escape at sunset.
A few years ago, I decided to take back my summers. We didn’t have a beach house or even a yard to barbecue in but I was resolved to mark the season with some sort of special event, a personal project, a creative vacation from the everyday that would distinguish this year from the others.
One summer, I went to clown school. Another, I rented a painting studio. Last summer, I studied letterpress printing and devoted myself to learning to draw on the iPad. This summer I am attending ITP Camp at NYU, learning about creative ways to code and merge tech and art. One of my favorite things about our new kourse, The Whimsical Sketchbook, was learning all the ways the fakulty create personal projects to take new creative risks or try new ideas that may not yet be ready for primetime. Rebecca Green wrote a book about ghost care. Vanessa Brantley-Newton plays with collage and new media. Miriam Bos paints wooden toys. Mike Lowery started a series of illustrating odd facts he uncovered.
Summer is a great time to make new friends and try on a new identity. It’s an opportunity to learn to weave baskets, pitch tents, or practice archery. Whether you’re six or 90, make this your season of renewal.
What new adventure will you have this summer?