There were two things I learned right away when I moved to Hoboken. One, don’t talk loudly (or at all) on the PATH, and two, get a beach house in the summer. Both of these things were foreign to me — I wasn’t super familiar with public transportation and, where I’m from, people go to the beach for the day and then go home. But in New Jersey, especially Hoboken, everyone spends every weekend of the summer at the beach. Hoboken looks like a ghost town in the summer. The upside is tons of parking, but the downside is knowing everyone is enjoying the beach and you are not. So, never wanting to miss out on any opportunity to have fun, I signed up to rent a beach house with about 20 other people.
I remember driving down that first weekend. I brought my weekend bag to work, cut out early at 3 p.m. and headed “down the Shore.” Windows down, music blasting and speeding just enough that I wouldn’t get a ticket, I was super pumped. This was definitely how I wanted to spend my summer weekends. I arrived at the house slightly nervous to meet everyone, but the girl who owned the house made me feel right at home. This house was beautiful! It had several bedrooms and bathrooms, and a gorgeous built-in swimming pool in the backyard with plenty of lounge chairs. We grabbed a beer, sat on the porch and waited for everyone else to arrive. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. I knew a few of the people already, but most of them were new to me. We all quickly became buddies sharing the same sentiment — it’s summer and everyone is happy to be out of the city and at the beach, ready to RELAX and have fun.
Well, I was a rookie and that was clear within my first 24 hours at the house. This was my first beach house. And like any rookie, I made every rookie mistake. I drank too much before we went out, then drank more when we went out, ran up a bar tab by buying everyone else drinks, made some bad relationship decisions and ate too much food late at night. FAIL.
I’d like to say that after my first night at the house I made better decisions that summer, but I didn’t. I kept thinking that this is what people do in the summer to have fun and relax. But the problem was, I wasn’t relaxed. I was hungover, embarrassed, physically unhealthy and emotionally drained. By the time I got back to the city on Sunday night, I was no more refreshed than when I had left. In fact, it would take me most of the week to recover, only to then go and do it all over again.
The Celebrating Summer series reminded me of this experience. I had it all wrong. And although I had to learn the hard way, I did eventually learn to celebrate in a healthy way that did leave me feeling full and refreshed. A couple of summers later, I did another beach house. This time, I didn’t drink. For me, that was the move I needed to make at that time. And I thought, this isn’t going to be half as fun as previous summers, but let me tell you it was the BEST summer I’ve had yet and I had TONS of fun, believe it or not. I worked out every morning by walking on the boardwalk and listening to the Hoboken Grace playlist — I love a good speed walk. Then we’d play at the pool and beach all day. I’d read a good book and take a nap. At night, we’d go out or play board games. And my favorite thing about it all was the friendships and community. The deep conversations and the silly conversations. I remembered them all and they filled my soul. We all had so much fun. And when I came back to the city, I DID feel refreshed and my soul felt full.
It took me awhile, but I did eventually figure out how to celebrate summer well.