Growing up with a mother who landscaped and a grandmother who we joked only fed us nuts and berries, I spent much of my time growing up outside. Being born in the early 80s and not getting a cell phone until 1999 (when I was 16!), I didn’t have the distraction of social media or phones. As we did not have anything but a black and white television with a knob to change the channels until 1994 (aka the World Cup was being played in the United States), my brothers and I spent much of our time outside. Growing up on a dead-end street in Oklahoma, I was lucky to have an army of other kids my age living in the vicinity. We often made up our own games, our favorite being Commando. Commando was basically our version of hide-and-go-seek only to be played at night which also kept us running through our neighbors’ yards until being home by whatever our curfew was at the time.
At the time, I remember thinking we all stayed out really late, but we were probably all home by 9:30 or ten every night. In the dark of night, we knew the street like the back of our hands and became quite skilled at climbing in hiding in trees in the dark. Our neighbors must have gotten used to our night time wanderings because no one ever seemed suspicious of us running across yards and hiding in trees. It was just our normal summer fun. There was one empty lot that we simply named ‘The Field’ and I can’t count the number of times I left a note on the kitchen counter for my mom simply stating I was there. Our street was small enough where my dad could stand in the front yard, yell any of our names and we would hear him.
As we grew up, we started spending less time outside playing on the street and unfortunately more time inside doing homework and watching television. Though I was able to continue to spend many hours of my day outside through high school and college by playing sports. Soccer was the only sport I ever played competitively and enjoyed it through my junior year in college. The heat never seemed to bother me too much, but now I find myself excited it is not me on the soccer field practicing on an August morning at 7 AM, knowing it would be only our first practice of four just that day. Now that I am no longer playing sports competitively, I find myself having to schedule time to make sure I am outside for a fair amount of the week. Adulting – working forty hours a week, making dinner, paying bills, laundry – can put a damper on the time I spend outside, but I have found activities to take me outside on a regular basis.
The outdoors is where I feel most alive. Where I want to spend most of my time. The wind, the sun, the animals. They are where I want to be.