People define the season of “summer” in various ways. Astronomers first defined summer as the period of time from the Summer Solstice (roughly June 21st) through the Autumnal Equinox (roughly September 21st). Later on, meteorologists developed the term “meteorological summer”, defined as the months of June, July, and August, to refer to the period of time when weather conditions (in the Northern Hemisphere) are typically most consistently warm. Of course, if you are a kid, or a student of any kind, summer clearly runs from the last day of the Spring semester through the first day of the Fall semester. In the United States, many individuals, particularly those in the working world, have arrived on a definition of “summer” as the period between Memorial Day Weekend (the last weekend in May) and Labor Day Weekend (the first weekend in September). In fact, at one of my previous places of employment, “business casual” attire was permitted only during the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. No matter where you are in life, if you are in the Northern Hemisphere outside the tropics, summer is coming to an end. Tonight’s (Labor Day) sunset, for many of us, feels like the last sunset of the summer.
I still remember an episode of Saved By the Bell where Zach Morris, the main character, calls in sick on one of the first school days of the year. The entire cast of the show had spent a crazy summer in Hawaii. It was so exhausting, so emotional, and so full of experiences and memories, that he just needed a day to decompress from everything that had gone on over the summer. That is very much what this weekend felt like to me. Although I did not set aside an entire day to do nothing but process events, nor did I physically take a day off from work, school, etc., I definitely dialed it down, and put off some things in order to recuperate and process everything.
For me, 2015 is what I would consider an “Epic Summer”.
As life progresses, I have come to realize that different periods of our lives mean different things. Some years, and some seasons in particular, are just more memorable than others. This does not mean that the other years and seasons are pointless. It is just easier to remember and ponder the significance of certain periods. History books specifically point to the year 1776, when the United States declared its independence from Great Britain, as a memorable year. During the previous centuries, an emerging class known as the Burghers were gradually moving society away from Feudalism and towards Free Markets, creating many of the ideals that lead to the revolution. There are many specific years between 1250 and 1776 that were not memorable, but still important in creating the world of 1776, as well as the world of today.
My life has a series of summers (five total including this one) I would consider “Epic”. I consider a summer to be “Epic” if it meets several basic criterea. First, it has to be memorable. This obviously means experiences that are out of the ordinary.
Second, in order for a time period, or an event to be considered “Epic”, it has to be one that I consider positive, and enjoyable. After all, dealing with cancer, a major injury, or depression is memorable. But, I would not think of it as “Epic”.
Finally, I believe an “Epic” time period must also be productive rather than destructive. After all, someone may go on a binge, or a rampage of some kind, and find it memorable, as well as enjoyable. But, the experience may have been detrimental to their future. So, I try to think of “Epic Summers”, as only the ones I feel like I am better off for having experienced.
The first four times I had what I would consider an “Epic Summer”, I did not realize it was happening until it was over. I later realized that those four summers were time periods I’d think about much more frequently than other times in my life. Sometime this Spring, I looked back at those summers, and realized that many of the conditions that created the other four Epic Summers in my life were also present this year, and, that the summer that was to come could very well end up being one that I remember for the same reasons. Now that summer 2015 has come and gone, I can say that the following conditions are what leads to an Epic Summer.
- They are exhausting
You are doing a lot! Otherwise, it would not really be Epic.
2. They involve new experiences
The summer between my Junior and Senior year in College was “Epic” because I brought travel to a new level (for me) that summer. Previously, my travel had primarily been weekend road trips in the area to places like Champaign, Bloomington, or Indianapolis. That summer, an internship brought me to Oklahoma for several weeks and included many more experiences throughout that part of the country. This summer was my first major multi-day bicycle trip, and my first time backpacking.
3. They involve some amount of planning
For many types of adventures, logistics do need to be considered. Where will we stay? How will we coordinate activities? I am not saying anyone can plan their way into an Epic Summer, nor am I saying that everything needs to be planned out. In fact, some spontaneity is also needed. But, many activities do need to be arranged ahead of time, particularly when they involve a significant number of people.
4. They build on advancements we make as a person on both short and long time frames
I would never have gotten to the point where I could complete a bike ride like the one I did in July had I not made steady progress as a cyclist over the years. This includes the training and completion of my first century ride in Illinois back in 2011, another summer I consider Epic. Prior to this summer, I worked on myself, trying to improve some of my habits and personality traits that I consider ineffective. I made continuing to have new and interesting experiences one of my 2015 New Years goals at the start of the year. The same goes for my first Epic Summer, the summer after my High School graduation. That year, I took advantage of the maturity, and improvements in my self confidence that actually began to take place halfway through my Junior year.
5. There is a mix of the familiar and the absurd
In every Epic Summer I have had, there have ben some repeats. Like in previous years here in Denver, I attended the USA Pro Challenge and saw the exciting finish of Colorado’s version of the Tour de France. After attending that race, I witnessed a topless protest on my way to a Weird Al Yankovich concert- quite absurd.
6. There are old friend as well as new friends
One thing about every time period I have ever considered an “Epic Summer”, is that it is partially about a feeling. By that, I mean a feeling that my life is just flowing properly. As a social person, that entails spending time with people that I have known for some time, and become comfortable with, but also continuing to expand my network and make new friends. In each of my Epic Summers, I have had some sort of influx of new people, through work, organizations, or friends of friends in the months preceding the actual summer.
7. They are not without conflict
My first Epic Summer I was always in conflict with my parents. This summer, I have had a lot of conflict at work. It is hard to say why, but when you are out there in the world, and following your true moral compass, you are naturally going to have some people that do not appreciate that.
8. They are often preceded by ruts
I really do not know why this is, at least not in a logical manner, but every single epic summer I have ever had was preceded by some kind of rut. This year, a rainy May in Denver combined with career stagnation actually bored me quite a bit. It feels almost as if the rhythm of life is starting to hint at the need for a much more active period to come.
I come out of the summer of 2015 knowing much more about life, and much more about myself and my own desires than I did beforehand. I have reached this state because of each and every one of the conditions listed above. I am bummed that summer is over, but, when mentally healthy, a person can transition from one amazing experience to the next. When I left college, I was sad, knowing that I had just had an amazing four year experience. But, I avoided dwelling on it, which would have ruined the last few months of that experience. Whatever comes next, in fall, may not be quite as amazing summer was. But, all I can do is take these experiences, and the improvements I have made to myself as a result of them, and use them to help me going forward.