Weekly E-mail: The Summer of George
August 19, 2013

Hello!

A few years ago - 2011, I think - I set out in June expecting the Summer of George, that fabled three-month burst of freedom and possibility. I had just completed my second City Year and was ready for a wide-open calendar of constant newness. And while I had adventures, it wasn't quite what I expected. I hadn't known that I needed to know where I'd be when the summer ended. 2011 was full of eye-twitching anxiety as I tried to find a place to live and spent money like water falling in a hurricane.

I didn't expect summer 2013 to be bursting with celebrations - and perhaps that's why it's been as joyous as it's been. It's been a long road to this point, full of self-doubt and aimless wandering. But here I am, in the twilight hours of my Summer of George.

The big news: I have a new job. I'm the External Engagement Associate at Citizen Schools, a non-profit that partners with public middle schools to provide expanded learning time for students. There are flashbacks to City Year, but it's definitely different. I'm about a month in and I love it. I work downtown in the Boston Children's Museum. Commuting into the city with the cool strut of a dude in dress pants, I feel like I've finally got my stuff together. I've got a plan for the future - though I'm still flexible - and it feels good.

So, for me, this has been a summer of celebrating. It started in early June, at the wedding of Jennie and Jon. I've known them since I moved to New Hampshire, and became really close through weekly Game of Thrones dinners this year. Six days after the Red Wedding, I was in a courtyard in Dracut, Mass., recording two lovely human beings get married. As boyfriend of a bridesmaid, I had access to all of the insider adventures - the prep, the rehearsal and dinner, the pre-ceremony setup. I tell ya, it's the only way to go. I was able to record the ceremony and lots of parts of the reception. It was great, being able to watch it from afar and capture something really important in the lives of people I care about deeply. And while maybe it would have been cool to jump onto the dance floor with everyone when "Only the Good Die Young" started after Jennie and Jon's first dance (routine), standing back I could see it all: the bride and groom, their bridesmaids and groomsmen, my brother and friends, family members and everyone else leap out of their chairs to let loose. Man, there ain't nothing better than that. Well, except for one thing: when the DJ played "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out." Oh boy. Best song ever? Undoubtedly one of the top ten moments of the summer.

Part of the greatness of the weddings I've seen is that they represent the couples so well. From the music to the spaces, from the dances to the design - they capture who those two people are. That's why weddings are so special. They contain all of the significant moments that came before and will come after. They truly are sacred events.

This past Saturday morning, I was running through the campus of Western Michigan University to Kanley Chapel. I had been in downtown Kalamazoo, exploring the free museum and learning about the history of the city with the funny name. I had lingered too long and, coupled with my lack of rented wheels (public transit or bust), I was in danger of being late to the wedding of Sarah, a friend from CYNH, and Chris. Sarah and I served together and she was one of the people I most admired and most enjoyed during my corps year. I've been fortunate to stay connected to her since that year - she even shared her prose as a contributor to The Compass - and was honored to be invited to her wedding. So I'm hoofin' it over train tracks and through volleyball courts and over the bleakest, darkest and hottest stretch of asphalt I'd ever seen. But I made it to the wedding on time, and was able to grab a seat next to Squid, a forager and boyfriend of a bridesmaid. We had bonded the previous afternoon over talk of monotheism, Delaware's claims to fame, and beer. I knew so few people at the wedding - the bride and groom were two-thirds of the familiar faces - but Squid (aka Rob) and all of Sarah and Chris' closest friends welcomed me into their world. I think it was that ol' Riley charm that sealed the deal

On the train out of Kalamazoo, I was melancholy. I wanted to keep the energy of the preceding night going, to dance and be goofy around people I just met. But our lives are not Saturday nights. Sometimes they are Sunday afternoons. And this particular one was spent in Chicago with my former team leader and current friend, Chris, and his wife Angela. Almost a year ago, I was kicking around Chicago after their wedding - the significance of this wasn't lost on me. We visited the Garfield Park Conservatory and met a knowledgeable and friendly lady who told us about the century plant. Soon after it blooms, shooting a stalk up to 26 feet into the air with a beautiful flower on its tip, it dies, all of its energy spent on preparing for the next generation. That's what we're all doing, isn't it? We grow and get big and make an impact on the earth, and give all of ourselves to the world in hopes that the next generation will have the roots they need to survive.

What this past weekend in part and this summer as a whole has shown me is that I am surrounded by incredible human beings. I keep saying and writing that I don't know how I've stumbled into this life, an existence in which I get to call such people friends. I've said it so much I fear you may think me insincere, my words false modesty with the awful tone of "Aw, shucks, it's just lil' ol' me." But what I'm really trying to say in those moments is that these people make my heart swell so big I don't know if my body can survive it. How can there be so many people who spend so much of their energy on making others feel better when they could save that energy and have an easier time of things for themselves? Because we're meant to blossom and fade (after many decades - don't think I'm Neil Young) - we're designed to look forward to where all of this is going. After the Summer of George will come the Fall, a time to cool down and recover. But there's still a few days left of the Summer of George - so let's make 'em count.

Love,
Paul

P.S. I haven't sent one of these out in a while, so if we haven't talked recently please reply and let me know how you're doing!



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