I recently read this article about an Italian school teacher's summer homework assignment for his students entitled: Get Off The Computer And Complete This Italian Teacher’s Summer Assignment. You Won’t Regret It. His words invoked a pang of nostalgia for the ridiculously humid, abandonedly carefree, and endlessly playful days of summer growing up on the east coast.
Summer meant crickets, popsicles, bicycles, ice cream, burgers, dogs, salt water, lightning bugs, skunks, books, campfires, and tents. It meant dancing, kick-ball tournaments, Relivio, Marco Polo, and Hide-and-Seek. It meant cannon balls, swan dives, and belly flops. It meant staying in the water—ocean, pool, sprinkler, or otherwise—until your fingers and toes resembled prunes. It meant staying up way too late and possibly pulling an all-nighter to watch the sunrise. It meant falling in love and having your heart broken.
At what point do we stop playing? At what point do we stop savoring every last breath of salty summer air? At some point in my thirty-plus seasons of summer I all but lost the art of play. This summer, I am determined to get it back. With the help of Cesare Catà of Don Bosco High School in Fermo, a small town on the Adriatic Sea in northeastern Italy, here's five of his beautiful homework assignments and five of my own.
The first five are directly from Catà:
1. Read as much as you possibly can. But not because you have to. Read because summers inspire adventures and dreams, and when you read you’ll feel like swallows in flight. Read because it’s the best form of rebellion you have.
2. Avoid things, situations and people who make you feel negative or empty: seek out stimulating situations and the companionship of friends who enrich you, who understand you, and appreciate you for who you are.
5. If you meet someone you find enchanting, tell him or her as sincerely and gracefully as you can. It doesn’t matter if she or he doesn’t understand. If they don’t, she or he wasn’t meant to be; otherwise, summer will be a golden time together.
4. Be as happy as sunlight, as untamable as the sea.
5. Dance, shamelessly. On a dance floor near your house, or alone in your room. Summer is dance, and it’s foolish not to take part.
Here are five of my own:
1. Watch the sunrise: While I love a good sunset, there is something about the stillness of a sunrise that feels like the worlds best kept secret. It's always been my favorite time of day.
2. Swim: Be it an ocean, a lake, a swimming hole, a pool, or even a sprinkler, find a way to dive in and experience the healing powers of water.
3. Dream: Let yourself come back to that fearless childhood dream. What did you want to be before anyone told you how or who to be? Remember it, remember how how alive and free it made you feel. You are never too old to dream.
4. Disconnect: Put your computers and cell phones away and engage in the present moment as much as you can. Have a conversation (that isn't via text), look someone in the eyes and really listen to what they have to say, or just sit with them in silence. Some of the best conversations I've ever had haven't included words. Just be and exist without distraction.
5. Play: Remember those childhood days where you lost track of time because you were so busy playing? Do that. Indulge, linger, and lose track of time. You have today ... it's kind of all we really know. Live it.