I feel like I’m supposed to like summer. But honestly, I don’t really care for it all that much.
Yes, I have listened to Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Yes, I have good memories of summer trips to the beach and campouts with friends. And yes, I have read a fantastic piece from my Thin Difference teammate Maya James, who makes a wonderful case for experiencing summers in Chicago. However, I don’t live in Chicago; I live in Dallas. And if you’ve ever experienced the heat and humidity of a summer in Dallas, you know you do whatever you can to experience as much it outside of Dallas as you possibly can.
The Summer Struggle
However, it’s not just the weather that makes summer difficult. When I was in college, the school year was action-packed and exciting. Going home for the summer felt like hitting the pause button right when the movie was getting good. It didn’t help that I typically worked terrible summer jobs (fun fact: I know what it takes to become licensed to operate a large Ferris Wheel, and it’s not as difficult as it probably should be).
Years after college, summers are still a struggle for me. It’s hard to get things done at work because people are all traveling at different times. Our young kids are out of pre-school, full of energy, and there are only a few great low-cost options to get them out of the house, especially when it’s hard to be outside because of the heat. There’s no football. Most television shows won’t kick up until fall. The bugs. I could go on and on.
Some of you think I’m a bit of a wet blanket right now for hating on summer so much. That’s okay if you don’t understand this struggle. You have my permission to close this post and go back to your picnic in perfect weather. But, others of you are nodding your head right now. You can’t wait for fall. It’s your favorite season for a reason: mainly for the changing color of the leaves, but also because summer is over.
Embracing “Slow-Cooker” Season
While summer isn’t my favorite, I’ve learned it can be useful and is packed with potential. I’ve started calling it my “slow cooker season” for a few reasons, starting with the fact that living in Dallas in August will give anyone a good idea of what it’s like being cooked in a crockpot. On top of that, however, summer is a slow cooker season because it allows for extended thinking and experiences.
It’s hard to microwave revolutionary thinking. Sure, great ideas can pop out of nowhere and in the middle of the day-to-day grind. But often, creativity needs time to grow. The mind yearns for freedom from boundaries and schedules. In my experience, the ideas that wind up defining my year came from out of the blue: a random book or a long car trip.
Summer provides a unique opportunity for slow-cooker thinking. Colleagues are often out of town. Meeting schedules are more open. The potential is there for you to think deeply and freely about an area of your job, passions, or life in a fresh and extended way. Along with that, time at the beach, on the road, out on the deck, or escaping the heat are ready-made excuses to read or listen to something new.
Even though summer isn’t my favorite season, I do have great memories from it. When I lived in Southern California, my family would often go camping in the summers. We would sit around the campfire, staring at the flames with such intensity as if each orange flicker had something to say. Conversations would often go to unexpected places because they were allowed to linger, uninhibited by the glare of a smartphone screen or the pressure of another place to be.
Summer provides a unique opportunity for slow-cooker experiences that force us to relax, slow down, and connect. For those of us who find it hard to stay in one spot, it’s one of the reasons summer is unsettling. But, if we embrace it, there is excellent potential for depth.
A Slow-Cooker Strategy
It’s important for summer strugglers like me to have a survival strategy as we face the abyss of the school break and heat wave. In light of the potential for deeper thinking and experiences, I think it’s helpful to list out some goals that take advantage of this slow cooker season. For example, think of…
- A book you can read just for fun.
- A strategy at work you’d like to dive back into, re-evaluate, and re-examine, even if it’s not broken.
- A class you could take to be a more well-rounded person.
- A podcast you’ve always heard recommended but never had the time to listen to.
- A friendship from another time in life you haven’t reconnected with in a while.
- A family member who means the world to you but with whom you don’t spend nearly enough time.
- A spouse or romantic relationship you could plan to spend extended time with.
Summer is unique. In some ways, this is bad – you might need to re-apply your deodorant throughout the day. But in some ways, this is good – you’ll have opportunities to let ideas and relationships marinate, develop, and grow deeper. Some of us need to fight more for this season to be good and useful. So, make a strategy and slow cook up some goodness.