I’m a child of the hot July sun.
I couldn’t wait to peel a wet bathing suit off my taut skin after a swim. I wanted that first feeling of realizing the sun was still out at 9pm, knowing the season had just begun and anything was possible. I wanted blackened feet from being barefoot all day and bike chain grease on my calves. I wanted sticky popsicle hands that I would only rinse quickly under a hose. I wanted to collapse in bed after a full day outside and finally realize how exhausted I was. I wanted to put potato chips in my sandwiches. I wanted to sit by a crackling bonfire and feel the intensity of the heat. I always felt like I could sit right in the center of the fire and not be burned but feel alleviated.
I used to yearn for the summer’s heat. It brought freedom and empowerment and indulgence.
Now, the summers bring a different kind of longing. A longing for days without humidity. A longing for a feeling of excitement around my birthday. A longing for the absence of death that has permeated my summers since I turned 19. No longer is summer a time of playfulness, of dry pool skin, of jubilation. It is riddled with responsibilities and a heaviness I feel I sometimes cannot carry.
My summers now reek of pain and growth. Each summer that passes shifts the trajectory of my life in a hugely significant way. Each summer I grow older and with it comes a sense of vague imminence. Each summer there’s a new person to grieve the loss of.
Summer has always held a special place in my heart. Before, it was the excitement of the hot sun and pool days and ice cream cones. Now, it’s the impending sense of change on the horizon. I’m learning that the latter is not something to dread.
I yearn now with the wounds of the previous summers still scarred on my heart. They’re cheat codes; a reminder that life is littered with painful experiences but that they create a wise and grateful person in the process.
I hope to sit in the sun one day and revel in my strength. Until then, I will let the hot July sun reshape my identity.