“I feel really uninspired with my life,” I said to Ms. Salvatore, straight faced after class.
Of course she laughs, because the way I bring it up is non sequitur. Before class started I told her I needed to talk afterwards about something, that it was nothing serious, but when I verbalized those words it made me realize it was. I always ask her life questions; I feel like English teachers just have a sixth sense on knowing how to live. When I’m thinking too much about the complexities of life, I jot down the issues I think about then ask Sal. Some have included, “Why do we have to grow old? Obviously because of biological reasons, but what if we stayed young forever?” and “I don’t know if I want kids.”
So she laughs, and explains to me how she suffers from seasonal affective disorder as well. Seasonal affective disorder, SAD for short, is a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year. Growing up, I would experience SAD in the summer because I had nothing to do, no car, no close friends. However, the summer after my junior year was different and so far the best because I finally had a car, a job, a Tinder (I know, I know), and some really kickass friends I was proud to pull up with at concerts and the beach. The past summer was different because there were parties, there was a later curfew—if any, at all, there was a veil of mystery covering the beachside nights with strangers I just met.
Saying goodbye to the defined bikini tan lines, sunkissed skin, and those beach days where I lost track of time was hard. It was worse than hard—it broke my heart. I pressed my palm against my lips and blew a farewell kiss to the late night fast food runs, driving barefoot, the drives with the windows rolled down all the way and the stereo blasting old school rap, the endless hours of sunlight, sneaking out late to drive fast in cars with boys, sleeping in until noon, the unexpected sleepovers in the clothes I came in, the eight plus hours of vitamin D, the lifeguard lovers—some with dark hair and some with light, the neon glow of amusement parks, the bustling nights with teenage kids hanging by the dairy bar and the older kids going to the actual bars and the old couples having a nice dinner by the bay, the dusk drives with the black of the sky engulfing my whole being, the sand in the crevices of my car, the hotness of my car key after taking it out of the ignition, the tranquil summer mornings, the bits of sand in my sheets, the pictures of beach house sunsets, catching some rays before work, staring at the waves with my best friend contemplating the infiniteness of life, hearing a new song and imagining how perfect it would be on my summer playlist.
But of course, with all this freedom came more responsibility. And I made a shitload of mistakes because we always feel invincible in the summer. So when the summer ended and the weather grew mean, I started reflecting back on the regrets of the daring summer. I said goodbye to the bad things, too. I said goodbye to the lessons of heartbreak that I didn’t really want to learn, but were necessary in order for me to grow a little wiser. I said goodbye to a small part of the old me—because we all change a little bit during these three months of freedom. The past is the past and it won’t ever change, but with SAD I can’t help but dwell on the bad things—the cocky coworker who drunkenly harassed me to sleep with him, the many different ways the restaurant owner’s tan and dark haired son kept letting me down, letting my best friend drink more than she should and half carrying her out of the car.
Even though not so eventful things happened in the summer, there was always something to write about; I found inspiration in the good and the bad.
It’s January now. The festive holidays are long gone. The red and green decorations are stripped down from the facade of neighborhood houses. The “Where are you planning to go to college?” and “So do you have a boyfriend?” holidays are over. The “I need to find someone mildly good looking to kiss at midnight” holiday has passed. What is left? It’s January, a long month with no shortcuts or holidays. A chilling cold festers deep inside my bones from running across the dead grass of my front lawn at seven in the morning to heat up my car and pole vaulting against the stabbing wind. Something inside me died; I feel like the light inside me that I swore in the summer would never die now only flickers sporadically, in attempts to fully illuminate again. But I don’t know if it ever will, because I’m not getting enough sunlight these days.
It’s also senior year. I’ve been aching to graduate since the sixth grade, aching for bigger things that I couldn’t even understand yet. This is the last year I have to endure high school, and also the hardest because I’m almost there—but not quite. This is what senioritis feels like: you’re driving at full speed and suddenly the traffic light ahead turns yellow. You want to make it, and you’re fully committed to making it—but suddenly you slam on the brakes because you know you won’t catch the light in time. You were so close, but you couldn’t outrun the yellow light. You couldn’t outrun time. Jolting to a stop, you stare at the red light and wait. You see all the other cars driving ahead in the distance, continuing their journey. But you’re here, sitting. Waiting. Waiting feels like eternity because you just want to get on going. My waiting consists of routine. For five days a week I have school then track practice after. On the weekends I go to work. The week restarts itself—and even though I am productive, I find myself in a rut. Mundanity’s hands are strangling me.
SAD mixed with senioritis is lethal. I begged my mom to go on a tropical vacation, and she said she’d maybe let me go alone if I found a friend. I looked up cruises to the Virgin Islands, beach house rentals in Tampa, beach house rentals in Margate—just to plan for the seemingly never coming summer. Researching warmer places gave me some hope. Just like the impulse I felt when I almost got a tattoo on my eighteenth birthday, the need to get away was the same kind. Traveling without an adult at eighteen is not realistic because, well, I’m not a fully formed adult yet. I don’t live on my own, provide for myself, nor have a full time job. Legally I’m of age, but when it comes to street smarts I lack experience. How would I get from the airport to the hotel? What if I wanted to venture to a nearby town for a night? What do you do if someone steals your rental car? How do you even rent a car?
I don’t know these things yet, but this isn’t my fault; this is because I’m stuck at the red light.
Sal said to read warm books—ones that take place in paradise so I don’t have to go to one. She recommended The Aguero Sisters by Cristina Garcia, which takes place in the alluring Havana. She said to use a Vitamin D lamp that emits UVA light. She said to drink tea, to pick up a new hobby, and most importantly of all—to remind myself that there will always come a summer sun.