Diary of a Professional Teen is a weekly column of #deep thoughts by twentysomething teenager and youth expert Taylor Trudon, where she’ll talk about her feelings in relation to what it’s like to be a Young Person in 2017.
I’ve always romanticized summer. This is the season I read about in YA books during middle school, and like in those books, I always wanted a life-changing one. The kind of summer where your brother’s friend who practices guitar in your basement finally realizes that he’s in love with you. The kind where you finally find some “self-control” and through equal parts discipline and starvation, you’re able to fit into those overpriced jeans from Abercrombie & Fitch. The kind where you go to parties on the beach and grip red Solo cups as though they’re your passport to being cool.
“In the depth of winter,” goes the famous Albert Camus quote, “I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” Summer signifies a fresh start, a sense of possibility and potential. For those warm, sweaty few months, you can transform yourself because you have time. You can read those thick books to impress your teachers and take expensive SAT prep classes that probably won’t make a huge difference in your score. You can peel that greasy layer of cheese off your pizza with extra care. You can stay up late at your friend’s house on a Tuesday night, lying on your stomachs, whispering about the boys you like and reassuring each other how different, how much better this year will be. You’ll have the whole summer to make sure that it is.
Instead, the summers you’ve anticipated won’t be magical. They won’t be terrible, but mostly, they’ll be boring. Most days, you’ll sleep until noon because you stayed up until 2 a.m. reading or watching America’s Next Top Model reruns. You’ll fight with your brother because his music is too loud. You'll have a beautiful in-ground pool in your backyard but using it would require you wearing a swimsuit in front of your neighbors, so you stay inside, in the safety of your air-conditioning. Maybe next year. And then, before you know it, it’s August and school starts in two weeks and oh shit you didn’t finish your required summer reading and now you’re squawking at your mom that you need her to drive you to Barnes & Noble to buy The Scarlet Letter or else you’ll fail English class before it even begins. Summer is over.
The summer that I was 16, I lived in Finland for a month as an exchange student. I thought that when I returned to the States that I would be more cultured, more sophisticated, more worldly. I remember my grandfather smiling and saying, “We won’t be able to recognize you when you get back!” I smiled back. That’s exactly what I wanted. But I felt exactly the same. My hair was a little bit longer, my nose scattered with new freckles — but that was it. And like every September, I walked into school with the same monogrammed L.L. Bean messenger bag and a fresh new pair of clogs from the mall. New school year, same me.
Now that I’m an adult who is no longer in school and therefore no longer has summer vacations, I think about how much time I spent desperately trying to transform myself into a different person. I think about the days that I deprived myself of certain things all in the name of reinvention so that others would see a supposedly “better” version of me. Even now, it’s still hard for me not to treat the start of summer like New Year’s Day, making unrealistic resolutions and writing down all of the things I want to change about myself, for better or worse.
To me, summer still represents possibility — a chance to become a different person if you want to be. But more than ever, it represents that carefree time you’ll never get back as an adult. I think about the days I threw away like empty cans of pamplemousse La Croix, and I think about the days that I deprived myself. Never in your life are you going to get this time back, so instead of using it to drastically change yourself, why not use it to do the things you really want to do? Wear the two-piece swimsuit. Read the books you actually want to read. Dye your hair three different colors. Walk aimlessly around your hometown that you hate now, but will make you think, when you come back and visit from college, Oh, this actually wasn’t a horrible place to grow up!
Growing up, so much of your brain is consumed with thoughts of looking forward to the future: how you can become older, gain more freedom, and the steps you can take to evolve into the person you ultimately see yourself being. You will eventually get all of these things if you want them. But you won’t get back an entire summer. So the question is, how will you spend yours?