Where did the summer go? I can’t count how many times in my life that I’ve asked myself that question. Summer always seems to be over before I know it and if I didn’t go on vacation or do anything summery, I feel cheated. So, this year, I decided to make a summer bucket list.
“We live in Los Angeles,” my friend Jean told me. “There are a ton of things to do.” And she’s right. The good thing is that it isn’t just Southern California that has special summer activities; they’re available everywhere. You only need to do a little bit of research to find out what’s happening in your town and take advantage of it.
Although I chose to focus on the small joys and simple pleasures of summer, I was still aware of what was happening in the world around me; I made a promise to myself not to feel guilty about concentrating on the bright side.
In addition, I made a few rules for myself regarding the things that I had no control over such as the extreme heat and bugs as they too were part of the summer experience. My activities had to be inexpensive or free, and I couldn’t schedule more than one unpleasant task per week—so if I had a dentist appointment on Tuesday, I’d have to wait until the following week to go to the DMV. The most important rule was that I needed to focus things that were singular to summer, so skiing, pumpkin spice lattes, and hearty comfort meals were out.
I didn’t do anything spectacular or Insta-worthy, but I never felt like I was missing out—even when friends shared pictures of their exotic vacations and their amazing summertime adventures.
Here’s my summer bucket list, but each person should create their own with the things that are meaningful for them. Be sure to include anything that will help you practice your own form of self-care, so that when summer is over you’ll feel much less stressed out than your friends who tried to see 15 countries in 13 days or who worked through it without a break.
See a show outdoors: One thing about where I live is that there are a ton of movies, concerts, and plays that you can watch while under the stars. We ended up going to some free concerts in a park. We picnicked (also on the list) alongside other families and their dogs. I got bitten by mosquitos, danced my ass off to songs I’ve never heard of, and had the best time ever.
Do one new thing: I’ve wanted to have the cat-café- experience for a while now, but somehow never got the opportunity. I had some friends visiting and on their To-Do List was a trip to Whiskers and Crumbs in LA, and they invited me to go with them. Although there isn’t really a menu at the cat café, they will go get you coffee from another establishment. The main attraction is the many cats available for playing with, petting, and cuddling. It ’s fun for both the patrons and the resident cats who not only get the attention they crave, but many of them get adopted too.
Go to a summer barbecue: My friend Jean threw a last-minute barbecue to celebrate our friend being in town with his new baby. We sat outdoors under twinkling colored lights, laughed, and had a great meal. Jean served some yummy shish kebabs and mac and cheese, while I rounded out the meal with my summer salad of fresh corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocado (bonus points for my using seasonal vegetables,) and a Sunshine Cake. Good friends, cute baby, excellent food, and the smell of night-blooming jasmine in the air made for a very special summer night.
Have a beach day: My friend Max lives in Ventura County (about an hour outside of Los Angeles) and I invited myself and my boyfriend, Andy, to spend the day with him. Luckily, Max was agreeable to the idea (Thanks Max!) We started out with a lunch of shrimp tacos at a local taqueria and then headed to down to the beach. It wasn’t too hot and there was a lovely breeze that came off the water. The sand walking and the pull of the water gave my legs an excellent workout and the ocean was especially warm. Andy and I learned that we suck at sunscreen application as we both have patchy spots of sunburn all over our legs, arms, and backs; hopefully, we’ve learned our lesson and will be more careful the next time we go to the beach.
Catch-up with friends before everybody gets too busy: Life is hectic, but things are a little more laid-back in the summer. Maybe it’s the weather that forces us to go at a slower pace. I made an effort to reach out to some friends that I hadn’t spoken to in a while and it felt great to reconnect with them.
Read more: I remember how long summers used to seem when I was a kid, and how I loved getting lost in books. Now that I’m an adult, I don’t read as quickly as I used to, but I still enjoy reading... I’ve read 5 books so far this summer, and by doing so have gotten touch with the younger version of me. Currently, I’m reading So Close To Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know by Retta (Good Girls, Park and Recreation, and Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce) and it’s hilarious.
Observe the light: This may seem like a strange item to have on my list, but have you ever noticed that the light is different in the summer? Not only is it more shimmery in the mornings, when it reflects off water or any other kind of natural surface it’s especially beautiful.
Give back: I gave as much money to charity as I could afford, sponsored other people in their fundraising efforts, and did a spoken word show where the entire cast agreed to give the fee that we would have received to RaicesTexas.org (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.) In addition, I did at least one act of kindness.
Eat seasonal foods: I made sure to have corn, watermelon, cherries, tomatoes, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, and ice-cream. Okay, ice-cream is available all the time, but it still reminds me of summer, and having its melty goodness drip down my hand seems especially summery and childlike.
Go swimming in a lake: I haven’t completed this item on the list but that doesn’t mean I won’t. Summer may be over for some people, but it’s not over for me until I say it’s over.
I made this list so that summer wouldn’t pass me by without notice and that when summer was over, I’d feel satisfied. What I didn’t realize was that by having a summer bucket list, I allowed myself to savor the season and to experience the simple pleasures that it has to offer.
Sure, I didn’t go anywhere exotic and I didn’t do everything on my list, but I still had an amazing time. When the weather starts to cool, and my focus shifts back to work, I will be ready to embrace a new season without feeling like I completely missed out on summer.