Perhaps I am still quite fresh off the academic boat, but my internal brain calendar still operates on the school year. In spite of having held down more than one job and worked more days than not for the entire summer, my mind, body and soul still feel like I’ve just had an entire three months of sun-soaked freedom.
Now that Labor Day has passed, is the summer fun truly over?
Between several weekends upstate and multiple trips to local beaches, parks and rooftops, my skin has been burned, somewhat tanned and then returned to its ghostly white pallor at least 12 times this summer. Since the point of my breakup in May, I have gained an ungodly 20 pounds due to aggressive comfort consumption of delicious treats in both the food and alcohol category.
I have survived on an average of five hours of sleep per night, and have taken a maximum of one night per week to unwind at home. I’d say 90 percent of time this summer has been spent working hard and playing hard.
So it should have come as no surprise to me when I found myself in the doctor’s office this week jovially recounting my summer antics, presuming the pain in my head was a long-term hangover or, at worst, a summer flu.
The diagnosis? A high fever, high blood pressure, tonsillitis and a severe sinus infection. I left with four prescriptions. Oops?
For Labor Day I returned to my favorite friend’s family home in upstate New York with my four bottles of pills and a vow that this would be my last hurrah before my theoretical school year began again. It had become apparent that my summer of liberation, celebration and rediscovering myself as a single woman, while immeasurably beneficial for my mental health, had taken its toll on my physical health.
Is everyone doing this? I get the feeling that I’m not alone in this exploitation of summer, August in particular, to have as much fun as humanly possible before the countdown to winter holidays and the annual Christmas return home begins.
Because I will be damned if I have to go back to Ireland as a 20 pounds heavier, fluey and semi-sunburned version of myself. I have four months to turn it around.
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As we fired up the grill for the fourth time on this trip and began to cook another huge meal that was mostly comprised of meat, I wiped sweat from my brow and said to the group, “I can’t believe we’re hungry again.” At which point everyone else shook their heads vigorously and said, “Oh, we’re not hungry at all. Just eating.”
Are we hard-wired as humans to indulge in such excess? Part of me thinks it comes with living in New York City, because I never functioned like this at home where the pace is much steadier, and the summers so much wetter, greyer and rainier that the need to take multiple miniature vacations throughout the summer never arises.
At one point during grill number two, a guest who lives in Buffalo joined us for an evening. Upon seeing the pile of grilled meat, cheese and buttered veggies, she declined the offer to dine with us.
Her teeth were glowing white, her skin perfectly sun kissed, her mood bright and spirits high. She had not spent the summer in the city, but up here among the flora, fauna and fresh air. We were on two very different playing fields.
New Yorkers -- the city folk, and yes I’m looping myself in here -- we work so hard in the biggest city on earth while walking through the sweltering crowds of human soup in a desperate attempt to complete our daily commute without melting or killing a fellow human being. The city in which we live, work and play is so inherently excessive, is it any wonder that our behavior follows suit?
So now that September has rolled around, and us rolling with it, how do we switch back out of this indulgent frame of mind and start taking care of ourselves again?
I can’t even remember the spring. The summers are so hot and glorious that you can almost forget the biting cold of winter, and that it’s just around the corner.
The only solution I can think of right now is to emancipate myself from all of my friends, because it seems that we, and our socializing together is the worst influence on our individual and collective health.
But surely that seems drastic. Surely we’ll eat the same amount of cheeseburgers if we’re all sad and alone.
My thinking is that you can only fight fire with fire. We must replace excess with excess. We must go cold turkey into the fall, lest this debauchery and hedonism continue and I’ll be clocking in at 300 pounds by Thanksgiving.
In my longstanding marriage to myself, this September I will be renewing my vows. Alcohol will be replaced with fresh juice and coffee. Fried food will be replaced with poached, steamed and fresh produce.
Dancing in a dive bar will be replaced with multiple sessions of hot yoga. Picnics in Prospect Park laughing at the joggers will be replaced with actually jogging in Prospect Park. Meeting men on dating apps will be replaced with meeting men in the produce aisles at Whole Foods.
In other words, I will become everything that I hate.
They say “everything in moderation” is the best way to lead a balanced lifestyle. If this summer is anything to go by, the concept of moderation is lost on people like me -- people who live in New York. Every season comes with a particular mode of excess, and the transition from summer to fall is the hardest one of all.