1. If you have a creek/stream/pond in your back yard, there is no level of grossness that will prevent you from playing in it as a kid. Your parents will attempt to dissuade you, particularly when it hasn’t rained in a while and everything is more brown than blue, but you will be there, joyfully, every day.
2. “Things you can eat at the beach” is an art that you have completely mastered. You know exactly what to bring, and how to store it, lest you end up with a mouth full of sand. You see people bringing sandwiches in those weak-ass plastic bags and you laugh at their hubris.
3. You know someone who has at least one water-based horror story. They got an infection, or a jelly stuck in their bathing suit, or saw a shark. And you’re not sure how much of this is rumor, and how much of it actually happened.
4. You know that 9 out of 10 things that scare you are actually seaweed, but you are terrified of them nonetheless.
5. There is no better introduction to the ~glamorous~ world of underage drinking than on a secluded beach, ideally one behind one of your friend’s houses. These evenings also often include sparklers, because lighting sparklers and minor fireworks is essentially a full-time on the water.
6. The best place to have a heart-to-heart or DTR (Define The Relationship) conversation is on a beach at night, either putting your feet in the water and looking off into the horizon, or leaning against a lifeguard stand.
7. Parking in beach parking lots at night — or, God forbid, trying to have a hook up there — is a surefire recipe for having a Night Cop come up and knock on your window.
8. Night Cops are your natural enemy. In the jungle of waterfront towns, they are the lion to horny teenagers’ injured water buffalo.
9. Even if you are in many ways stuck in your town, being on the water somehow gives you the feeling of always being able to escape. It changes you psychologically, and makes everything feel less enclosed, and more full of possibilities.
10. Skinny dipping is a rite of passage.
11. When you think about some of the questionable bodies of water you’ve gone swimming in, you cringe, and then rationalize that it probably just made your immune system unbeatably strong.
12. “The start of summer” has often meant “as soon as the water won’t literally give you hypothermia, and you can wear a bathing suit outside without visibly shivering.”
13. You have a friend who thinks they can drive a boat, but who definitely can’t drive a boat. (But no one has the heart to really tell them because, hey, free boat trip.)
14. Sun poisoning is a real part of your medical history.
15. Sunscreen is a real necessity, even for the tanner people amongst you. “The sun reflecting off the water twice as strong” is not something your mother says to scare you.
16. You have that one friend with the perfect waterfront home who has gotten so used to it that they don’t even appreciate it anymore, because apparently waking up to stunning views gets boring after a while.
17. Dog-friendly beaches are simultaneously the most magical and worst places on earth.
18. “Learning how to swim” is something that happens when you’re essentially a baby, and no one even really remembers when they learned.
19. For some reason, salty things taste better by the water, and justify strange combinations. Some days, you’ll just eat french fries with vinegar and salt, or sandwiches stuffed with potato chips, and won’t want anything else.
20. Eventually, you’ll get the “packing for the beach” routine down to an hour and a half, and this will be an enormous victory.
21. No matter where your life takes you, part of you will always be on the water, and you will always need to be close to it. When you go back and sit by the coast, listening to the waves and watching the boats bob up and down, nothing feels more calming or more profoundly right. The water will always be your home.