August. It's that strange time of year when kids go back to school, even though it still feels hotter than hell, delicious fresh produce abounds, and it's the month when I start to panic about summer slipping away.
I am a warm weather girl. I love long, hot days by the pool, taking walks along streets lined with towering full trees, early mornings and late evenings, seeing colorful flowers thriving, and farmers markets overflowing. It's usually around this time of year that I start to notice that the mornings are just a little bit cooler, the crickets seem to start chirping just a bit earlier in the evenings. The days, which are still plenty long, start to feel just the teensiest bit shorter. Each day as the sun sets, it takes just a little more summer with it.
Every year when August rolls around, I start to panic about whether or not I've truly made the most of these long summer days. Have I spent enough evenings enjoying the company of friends? Have I spent enough hours soaking up vitamin D by the pool? Have I lingered on enough patios? I know there's still some time left, but I know that soon it will be too brisk for the patio, too dark for an evening stroll. I want to make the most of what's left of the summer.
I don't particularly like fall. I know this is an unpopular opinion, particularly for a basic white girl such as myself. I get terrible Seasonal Affect Disorder, and the prospect of shorter days and cooler weather cannot excite me for all the pumpkin spice lattes and sweaters in the world. But whether I like it or not, fall is coming. This year I'm going to try to plan some things to look forward to during those shorter fall days, but I'm focusing on something else too - taking back August.
Instead of letting panic color my days, I'm going to fill my days with all the summertime things I love. I'll take the dog for an extra walk to soak up some sun, meet a friend for a drink on my favorite patio, go get an ice cream cone, and take my lunch break at the pool. Each morning when I wake up, instead of thinking about how few days I have until fall takes hold, I'll go outside and breathe in what's left of summer. I don't want to be so focused on the coming fall months that I forget that all those things I love so much about summer can still be enjoyed. I'm going to remind myself to be in the present moment, and in doing so, stretch summer out just a little longer.
What does friendship mean to you? I've always been very lucky to be surrounded by great friends, though some have come and gone over the years. As I've gotten older, and especially over the last year or two, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the role of friendships in my life. Cultivating truly meaningful friendships has always been incredibly important to me, but I find that in this millennial culture it's easier than ever before to opt-out or remain very surface level friends. But I'm looking for something more than that, which is why I only give my time to all-in friends.
What are all-in friends? They are the people you know you can always rely on if you're in trouble, the people to whom you can tell anything and know they won't judge you or repeat it to anyone behind your back. But it's more than that. An all-in friend is someone who reciprocates friendship in equal measure, a friend whose doorstep you can show up on in good times or bad and know you'll be welcomed in with open arms. They are the kind of people who can see your differences and love you more for them. The people who invite you over on Christmas when they know your husband has to work. Your chosen family.
I've tried to be all-in on all my relationships for a long time now. I just don't see any other way to be. That's part of what is authentically me - showing up 100% and opening the door to vulnerability, because I think we grow closer when we know someone understands. To me, being all-in means showing up, both physically and emotionally. It means being open and vulnerable to show my friends that it's safe to be themselves when they are with me. It looks like celebrating life's changes (and you will change) and intentionally finding ways to grow together instead of growing apart.
I know this sounds like a lot. And it is. That's why I intentionally keep my circle pretty small. I'm sure I've scared people off in the past, because for a lot of people, that level of deep connectedness is overwhelming. But I want to show up for people in this way. I don't always do it perfectly, but I try. So for me, finding friends who are also all-in is key. To me, friendship is a commitment, but it's one I'm more than happy to make. If you're thinking this sounds like a lot of work, then keep looking for your people. I'm so lucky that I have some really wonderful all-in friends (and an all-in partner), in my life, because when you have people who are willing to be all-in with you, it makes doing the work so much easier because you know they will show up for you too. And when you do find them, don't forget to show them how much they mean to you by practicing the art of being all-in.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? For me, it's something my Grandpa has said countless times, and while it has never been billed as advice, I think the opportunity to apply it to my own life is implied. He says, "If I had my whole life to do over again, I'd choose the same job, and I'd marry the same woman." Not bad, huh? It leaves plenty of room for some different choices here and there, but how many people can genuinely say they would have the same job and the same spouse? Maybe one or the other, but BOTH... now that's a truly lucky and inspired life. Especially considering he came of age in an era where you picked both early, and stayed the course, even if you realized a little too late that you made the wrong choice.
I think about this bit of wisdom often, and it has helped me make some hard decisions. But I wonder how much different the world was back when my grandfather was choosing his path compared to now as I choose mine.
I imagine in the '60s that there were far fewer "paper pusher" desk jobs, not to mention entire industries that barely existed. My entire work day is spent staring at a computer screen, which definitely would not have been the case then. He chose to be a high school physics teacher, and I think he genuinely loved it right up until his very last day. I have many friends who decided to move away from teaching because the increased demand on teachers to be available 24/7 in our digital world was too stressful, especially for the meager pay. It may sound cliche to call it a "simpler time" but I bet it was. Yes, there were fewer career path options, but I would be willing to bet that more people felt they had a purpose and believed that the work they did contributed to something meaningful.
Relationships have changed too. In those days, it was pretty common to marry early, and rare to leave once you had. Luckily for him, he didn't need to because honestly my Grandma is the kindest and most magical woman alive (another thing he says a lot, specifically in reference to her, is "Damn, was I ever lucky!"). Today, with online dating and an ever-increasing pool of candidates, it seems like it would be easier to find the right person to share your life with, but the allure of someone new and different often wins out and causes a potential relationship to fizzle before it even really ignites. Not to mention, thinking about my own history, and the people I dated in my early twenties... let's just say luck doesn't begin to cover it. It'd be a downright miracle for any of those relationships to have lasted over 50 years as my grandparents' has.
All this to say, my Grandpa's bit of wisdom is my ultimate goal - to look back on my life and be completely happy with the biggest choices I made for my life. But I think in order to apply it to life in 2021, it isn't as cut and dry as two big choices. I have to really inspect the gray area. It's a constant series of choices, with consequences and rewards that aren't always immediately apparent.
I can surely agree with him that I have unquestionably found the right person to share my life with. Someone whom I would gladly choose again and again, no matter how many times the question was asked. That said, I am also cognizant that in order to make our relationship work, in order to keep choosing each other, it requires a lot of work, a lot of give and take from both sides. We are constantly expanding our thinking and learning new ways to be better partners to each other, in order to make a relationship last in a world that is designed to cause it to fail. I think having an awareness that at any moment one of us could make the choice not to be together, an option that wasn't available (or acceptable) for many people until the recent past, makes that hard work easier, and it makes the continued choice to stay together all the more meaningful.
As far as work goes, is it my dream job? No. But in today's world, aren't most jobs just sending emails all day anyway? Instead of thinking about the work itself, I think about the life that this job affords me. My job offers stability, which in turn allows me the time and opportunities to travel and pursue other hobbies that give me the fulfillment that people in previous generations relied more heavily on their jobs to provide. Not to mention a nice retirement pension that will (hopefully!) result in many years of unencumbered time to spend doing the things I love. This job is so much more than just the work. It's the life it allows.
There are always challenges in life, but there are big wins too. I think the challenges I face today are different from those he may have faced, but it strikes me that those two big, but seemingly simple choices he made, only look big and definitive after a lifetime of making the same small choice every day for many decades. Making the small choices day by day that he knew would add up to the life he has loved. All the little decisions I make from day to day, are adding up to something bigger that I won't fully see until later.
So, when it comes right down to it, if I had my life to do over again, would I choose the same job and the same husband? In the words of my Grandpa, "Damn, am I ever lucky" to have chosen exactly the life I wanted.