Summer happened. Too quick. Or maybe mercifully so, considering I want for fall and winter all year long, considering how hard the 80 degree August days hit me. But summer happened and I’m not entirely sure how to compartmentalize it. This was my first summer that was not defined by a move, a significant change. I didn’t graduate from college. I didn’t transfer colleges or drop out of graduate school. I didn’t move from Alaska to California via car and then to Washington five weeks later. I didn’t hop cities within California or Colorado. I stayed still.
This was, in fact, my first summer that wasn’t defined by a move or a change of a similar magnitude since 2007. That makes my head ache. Ten years. My first summer where the summer was just… being… doing the life thing… since 2007, since I was fifteen and sixteen?
And 2007. That summer was defined by two lengthy Colorado visits, the afternoon storms while I was there, a on and off again boyfriend I adored, Eclipse Prom (though this is memory playing tricks on me because that Twilight event was in the spring, wasn’t it?), a stray cat that followed me home and stayed in room until she ran away, cutting my hair to my shoulders because I’d dyed it black only to strip it down too many times and it was so damaged and all the hair had to go to start fresh and god. God. Did that haircut really do a number on my self-esteem. The summer of 2007 was defined by the loss of my childhood golden retriever and, in the late August days, the arrival of the black lab that would go on to change my world.
This summer, 2017, it started with moving that black lab from California to Washington (ha–so I guess a move held a huge play). This summer, 2017, I imagine that in ten years, another decade, 2027, I’ll remember this summer as something strangely sweet. Every dream of the previous year true: living side by side with my dog, the daily hikes, how she gallops into the creeks and into Puget Sound every time we hit the beach, how she walks through the forest like a queen, never strays from my side when another creature comes near. Before Bellatrix moved in, I’d often go days without leaving my apartment, unwilling to go to the mailbox unless it was the pitch of night. Since June, I’m outside in my rain boots and shorts within minutes of waking, and I’m outside again, and then again, and then again for a longer time. I’m not so afraid of the sun these days. I’m not so afraid of being seen because doing so, taking my dog out, it gives her the greatest joy, so I find myself putting on her leash more than she even needs–because it’s a mood boost for the two of us. So, it’s been a dream of a summer. A summer with my dog.
But this summer wasn’t only Bellatrix and me. It was long nights at my desk working on proposals, working on freelance projects, working on what I can’t even recall. Days of sitting still, sitting so still in my darkened apartment, sitting still yet dizzy, too hot. No AC. I’m a joke: I finally broke and bought a giant fan yesterday, September 8th. I turned 26 this summer, in August and, in a single day, I was dropped from my father’s health insurance and into Medicaid: an event I’ve been dreading since before the ACA, before the age was pushed by several years. I’ve been on a waitlist to see my new psychiatrist since the spring and I have another month to go but I still have hope, even though my monthly prescriptions cost some hundred dollars without coupons. It was a summer of hope, of learning to hope, to shut the fuck up with the panic and act instead. Or take a break. I’m still so bad at taking breaks–only took three in July and August combined (not counting writing retreats, which do feel like work, are work in some regard), and that is not a source of pride but a wake-up call. TAKE DAYS OFF FROM WORK. WEEKENDS ARE FOR HEALING. I’m learning to be kinder to me. That’s what this summer has been. That’s what I’ve tried to let it be.
It was also a summer of a writing retreat in British Columbia with new friends, of a write-in with two of my best friends, of static heat and wildfires up the coast. Sparkling water and near-frozen bananas and reading sixteen books. It was a summer. Months that bleed back in my mind to spring. Where did one end and the other begin? If I blogged regularly, weekly, bi-weekly, the season wouldn’t even be worth noting. It was a summer like any other: stagnant, endless sun, relentless heat, decent enough, all things considered. I even ate some watermelon last week.
But that’s not entirely true–decent enough–because, this summer, I not only had my dog with me, always, but I also held NOTHING LEFT TO BURN for the first time. Something I’ve been working toward since I can remember: me, ten, fifth grade, on the tetherball court, me, punching that ball in the terrible way I did, punching that tetherball and imagining what my first book would look like, imagining holding a book with my name on it. Me, six, in the principle’s office in some fluffy dress, passing over a bundle of construction paper and proclaiming my dream to write. My entire life. I’ve worked for this always and will continue to do so. It sounds so silly, trite, almost pathetic. But it’s not. It’s my truth and I think it’s sort of lovely.
This summer, I held my first novel–still unfinished but so close, tangible, real. And though I wouldn’t have been able to recognize what it’s become, it’s the story I held so dear back in 2007, that summer, the second summer after having completed my first book–there was a lot of writing in bed that summer. It feels like I should say I wouldn’t have believed it–that if you’d told me at fifteen and sixteen that I’d be holding my book, prepping for its publication–it feels like I should say I would not have believed this to be the truth. But that’s a lie. Looking back at teen-me–god this will be cheesy–but looking back, I’m proud of that girl. That girl had no doubt. I had no doubt that I’d make my dream, my goal, a reality. It was just a matter of when. Of continuing to work, not giving up, holding on with my teeth. I remember saying that maybe it would happen soon but maybe it’d happen when I was ninety. And I say this now to me and others about book two, book three, book four. There are no guarantees but damn will I always be writing.
Even still, despite what perhaps some might call teenage arrogance, that moment in early August was a fantasy: holding my book for the first time. A shock. I couldn’t breathe. I still feel strange, fluttery, terrified when I spot a copy on my bookshelf or when I learn someone read it and loved it. I am so lucky. I am so, so lucky. A summer with my black lab and a summer of a lifelong dream coming true, the bliss of living with the dog who is great love of my life, and the bittersweet relief of the reality that nothing is permanent, especially not the heat
It rained for the first time in three months last weekend and it felt like coming home because, let’s be real, summer has never felt like mine.