Oh, happy summer.
For me, that means bikini-clad bike rides equipped with cup holders; small beach get-togethers that eventually attract dozens; wavy, salt-infused hair; the notion that everything will, in fact, be alright as long as the sun is shining.
Or, that's what summer used to mean for me.
These days, it's all about messy buns (because who bothers to wear hair down in the heat?!), getting to work without melting my makeup and trying not to look at the "Explore" section on Instagram because college kids with their lazy rivers and large smiles make me sad as I sit in this lowly, under-air conditioned office.
So this is what a quarter-life crisis feels like? I've had inklings before, but never so profound as a longing for Creature (the name of the SUV I gave up when I moved to NYC), and the bliss of leisurely Florida days.
It's humid in New York today. As I commuted across Central Park on the M79, reggae-pop bands like The Expendables, 311 and Sublime play on Pandora's Slightly Stoopid radio station.
I was originally listening to Beyonce's "XO" as I left my apartment because the last step of my morning routine involves having to settle on a suitable song before heading out the door.
But, the transfer from hand to bag was unsuccessful, and on came the onslaught of nostalgia.
As the songs played, each one triggered a new memory of my bygone youth.
Memories of driving with the windows down and music blasting, inexpensive concerts under many influences and what it felt like to not have a care in the world after that semester's finals were done, flooded over me.
The nostalgia lasted the entire 30-ish minutes it took to get to Columbus Avenue.
It's not that I don't love my life now. It's everything I dreamed of as a teenager and more.
I'm a 26-year-old living in the Upper East Side in my very own (tiny and painfully expensive) junior one-bedroom apartment, and I have a great boyfriend who loves to visit.
I have two jobs where I feel useful and respected and that, for the most part, I enjoy. I even felt grown up enough to adopt a kitten a couple years ago.
But, what I didn't realize was just how much hard work it takes to care for yourself and to give yourself the life you deserve.
Oh, I heard it enough from parents, relatives and plenty of articles designed to help recent college grads cope with that realization. I even inherently knew it was coming.
I thought I was ready for it.
Frankly, I'm quite exhausted. This fatigue, I've realized, is what makes people leave this thriving, wonderful metropolis (which happens to smell exactly like stale garbage from June through September).
I've also come to realize why people marry young (a Southern tradition I was hell-bent on avoiding).
It's just easier to live life with someone to hold your hand — and share the finances — through it.
Maybe the lack of foresight is what made me crazy enough to make the leap to the big city. The hardships are real, and really trying on your spirit sometimes.
But, there are special a-ha moments, too, and every new New Yorker experiences them from time to time.
Like, when a beautiful day happens to align with a day you're wearing sensible shoes and you get to walk home through Central Park.
Or, when you're going about your day and you catch an astonishing glimpse of a landmark, and it's so perfect you don't even attempt to Instagram it.
You just stare, grin and soak it all in. And, when you fly away, no matter for how long, the drive back into the city has the most iconoclastic and awe-inspiring views you'll ever see.
I hope I never lose that feeling as long as I live here.
And, while my time as an irresponsible, carefree, young adult beckons me from time to time, I know there's good stuff, maybe even better stuff, on the way. I can feel it from my sheer yearning for more.
The responsibilities will only continue to rack up, but so will the rewards.
Life has always been good at affirming that for me, and NYC has the perfect amount of opportunity (along with the occasional ass-kicking moments) for a quarter-lifer like me.