The August Editor's Letter: August, Die She Must
And she did, didn’t she. Simon & Garfunkel, those dudes don’t lie.
Compared to the firework quality of July—a month that is about as pure summer as summer can get—August is this strange, languid stretch of time when temperatures jump as Indian Summer swells; the quiet anxiety of the season’s end grips everyone from school children to parents to colleagues accustomed to the flexibility of Summer Fridays and work barbecues, and the flock of interns that livened the scene up for awhile.
As a kid, I thought of the month as one big, lousy Sunday night. Nobody likes those. As an adult (note: I use this term lightly in regards to myself), it’s not so foreboding. Now, it’s the last drop of wine in the bottle. A little sad, but still there for the taking.
Named for the emperor Augustus Caesar, August was originally called “Sextilis” before the Roman Senate honored their leader by slapping his name on the calendar for all time. How appropriate then, that I write this editor’s letter from the seat of the Roman Empire itself, on holiday with a mixed bag of Europeans who swap out their zip code in exchange for another this time of year like clockwork. Normal life is not exactly in effect in Europe during August. The Italians head for the beaches or the Mediterranean islands, the French flock to Biarritz, then English head to Malaga or Capri, the Spanish to Porto or San Sebastián. Wherever these fellas roam, I’ll tell you what. Europeans know how to holiday. And they don’t seem to be guilty for it whatsoever. The entire month of August is allowed to be limbo—businesses close, people deuce out of their lives, wait weeks before answering emails, allow the unfinished business to idle.
There is a guilt to leaving behind work in America that runs deep in our culture and work ethic. Flexible PTO policies or not, for many of us there is an inherent something that just seems wrong about shirking work and jet setting off for weeks at a time. I mean, I’m still doing just that. But lingering there is a fear of being forgotten. (Like you, fair readers, could ever be forgotten—fat chance!) We think about the work we could have put in, the ways in which we might have gotten ahead, perhaps some of us even worry about our social circle leaving us in the dust if absent from happy hours or birthday bashes for more than a couple weeks. Personally, I have an irrational fear of my coworkers realizing I am not really all that needed, my position and personality superfluous in the delicately structured fabric of our team. In a city like San Francisco, where a braggadocious, sometimes abrasive ambition hangs thick in the air alongside our homeboy Karl, it’s easy to fear for your security, to put in all you got and forget there was a time you had an identity that wasn’t inextricably tied to your job title. If you think of nothing but this, summer is just another season, and August is just another month. And you are just another face that signed up to become a cog, in a machine of whose purpose you’re still unsure. What a very sad spiral that is indeed.
So whether you choose to get gone and set that cathartic OOO message in the month of Augustus Caesar or choose to do so some other time of year—just go. I’m not saying you need to quit your job and find yourself in Bali or Nepal. Maybe if we can learn the balance between what we do for a living and how we actually make a life—two things that are, in fact, quite different from one another—they’ll be nothing to find because we’ll never lose ourselves at all.
So goodbye dear August, how we hate to see you buried. But I’m doing so whilst sitting by the edge of Lake Garda. 7AM en route to hike the Dolomites. The Colosseum was my neighbor last week. Two days ago I didn’t even know where I’d sleep tonight. I’ll bet our ego and paradigms disappear with our comfort zone as the curtain goes down on summer, as I live it up abroad. No one worth a damn will forget me. This I am sure of: there is beauty in being gone.
// Photography by Alex Perez.