The thrills of summer

I had a moment of truth today.

Somehow, for two years of my adult life, my primary responsibilities were writing and teaching. And perhaps even more amazing, I spent two summers driving cross country with the best man in the world.

This summer I started working within 48 hours of graduating - and haven't stopped since.

I suppose we all have to grow up sometime.

I realized, though, that often when things fall into place, I have to resist the urge to break them apart. It's an impulse that must go back to childhood - the same feeling you might get when you find an undone seam in your shirt and you want desperately to unravel it all. It's an instinct I only recently realized I have. And now, since I'm a grown-up, I'm resisting it with all my might, because I worked my ass off to get here. The good news is, it has rekindled a creative fire I worried I might lose.

After my first full day at the office, I came home and found this:

This, to me, epitomizes the ideal summer. It was early June and this was our first campsite of many. The day was long but passed quickly. We fell into a leisurely rhythm of driving, hiking, cooking, and sight-seeing. We couldn't predict where we'd be next, and even when we did plan ahead, something more interesting always came along. We were outside most of the day.

As wonderful as that trip was, and as tempting as it is to think longingly of Carlsbad Caverns or beignets in New Orleans or flea markets in Pittsburgh, I have to remember the stress and anxiety that came with uncertainty. That same month I had to transfer from an already expensive insurance plan to the exhaustively expensive HIPAA plan - something I never could have afforded without my family's help. I was about to start graduate school but didn't really know where it would lead me. I was moving 110 miles from my boyfriend. A lot of things were exciting, and a lot of things were scary.

I'm trying hard to remember that when things feel scary, it is often because deep within them lies some new and untapped thrill. And what says summer more than that?

So here's to weekend vacations - to new beginnings - to stable jobs - to sharing an address with the best man in the world. I promise not to rip the seam.

And while I'm at it, I'd like a pony

I can't believe it. I've begun craving domesticity. And not in the ways I would expect. I don't want children. I don't anticipate marriage. I don't want to spend the day cooking. I just -- well, I find myself coveting houses. Apartments with beautiful windows. Big, sprawling gardens. Even those perky little studios atop corner stores.

I can't pinpoint exactly when or how it started, but at some point I realized that I spent as much time staring at the buildings I was passing as I was the road ahead. Every street in San Francisco has at least one interesting facade, whether it is a three-story Victorian with purple trim or a canary yellow apartment complex with neatly trimmed flower boxes. I'd like to attribute this newfound admiration to Kurt Andersen's influence--the host of PRI's Studio 360 focuses a lot on design and architecture, and often curates these amazing radio pieces that somehow capture the sound of buildings.

A more likely explanation is my own (rented) apartment's current mess; the entire building has been covered in green scaffolding since January 1, and the contractors finally started stripping the dry rot off the exterior this week. At any given time of day, there are about 30 Chinese construction workers hammering, stripping wood, and clamoring around (and sometimes in) our apartment. I know this will all benefit me and my housemates in the long run, but that's not my first thought when they begin hammering about bed-level at nine a.m. on a Saturday.

Between that, and the dawning realization that the chances of me ever having enough money to ever own any kind of property in San Francisco are close to nil, this mounting desire for my own place is almost dizzying. It's the weirdest, strongest material want that I've ever had. I don't usually want things. I'd rather get books from the library or movies from a rental store than buy either. I hate shopping. I don't like handbags and almost all of my jewelry I've received as gifts. When it comes to gifts, I'd much rather have an experience; that is, a concert, performance, trip, nice dinner, bike ride, thoughtful card.

And now, seemingly out of nowhere, I want a house. Although I'd settle for a tiny little studio, if it was all my own and I was my own landlady.

Maybe this is what happens when your friends start marrying off, when people your age are managing mortgages and your cousins start having kids. Maybe there's some symbol for adulthood that we are constantly seeking to measure; a yardstick for our own success that is easy to categorize. I recently saw a friend I hadn't seen in four years; in the time that I had used to work abroad, get a job, apply to and get into grad school, he had traveled the world over performing as a musician, met his fiancee, and discovered new career paths. Now he is contemplating how to best marry said fiancee, who is from another country, and he said that many of his friends are buying houses and settling down.

After we had lunch, I came home just as the construction workers were removing my bedroom window. Dust settled on my bedroom floor and I thought longingly of my own place, that hypothetical little corner somewhere in the world where all my passions and desires and ambitions would be, at long last, contained.