Starting in middle school, about a month before school ended, I would make a list of “impossible” things that I wanted to achieve that summer. Usually, I tried to make the list at least 10 items long and my goal was always to complete the list and write about them in my journals as I went. Middle school was a hard time for me (and everyone else on the planet). I was struggling in finding healthy relationships with friends; I had a hard time controlling my weight; terrible acne that nothing would fix; I was bullied about my clothes weight glasses and “huge pores”; I was overly sensitive; and while I was eager to fit in (initially) I was a bit on the socially awkward side. In other words, I was an easy target in school.
So, summer became a time that I could really dig deep and be anything and do anything. I don’t think I ever had the words to explain to my parents the “why”, though I’m sure they asked, but my dad especially seemed to instinctively know that I needed this. His only restrictions were: you fund it, you plan it, and parents must sign off on it. Fair enough.
One especially hard year, I wrote the word “fly” and then quickly added “not in a plane”. It was the most impossible thing I could think of – if I could do this then I could do anything. It didn’t even matter that I was terrified of heights – just for the summer, just for this one thing – I wouldn’t be. So, while on vacation in Florida with my grandparents, I saw the perfect opportunity – parasailing. I spent the next two days secretly researching parasailing – what were the best companies in my area, how much was it, what did I need to provide. The only problem was being under 18 by about 3 or 4 years I needed parent or guardian signature, but it wouldn’t have been impossible if it was easy. My grandma immediately said “no” but later changed it (after I started being annoying, I’m sure) to “Well, ask your father and whatever he says is the final word” to which I quickly agreed and shook hands to seal the deal.
On the phone, I asked my dad if I could go parasailing and he let out a long sigh. “You’re grandmother will be very nervous about this. Why parasailing?” I explained that I needed to do it to complete my list. “Can we do that part another year – I could go with you?” I told him that I knew I was being a pain but it had to be this year. “Why is this so important?” It just… was. It was something I needed to do.
Another long sigh, he asked for me to put my grandmother on the line. They probably spent 30 minutes on the phone arguing until she put my grandfather on the line to “talk some sense into your son” at which point another 15 minutes was spent arguing until my grandpa hung up the phone and said “Well. If you’re bound and determined to kill yourself this way, then we’ll leave at 9 am to do it, I guess.” I gave my grandpa a big hug and a kiss and told him-jokingly- it was exactly how I wanted to go out. He rolled his eyes and told me to take my brother to the pool while he talked things over with grandma.
The next day we left early to go to parasailing. It was exhilarating and freeing. My brother also decided to go with me and he went up with me despite his own fear of heights so I wouldn’t have to do the impossible alone. It was at that moment that I realized that even if I could rely on no one else, I could rely on my family. Granted, there were probably better ways I could have done things – I regret worrying my grandparents and making my dad go to bat for me, but the next year and all the following years were very different for me in school. Its hard to convince someone that no one loves them and that they are a loser when they’ve done the impossible specifically because several people loved them enough. That isn’t the only story or lesson I learned from my impossible summer lists – but it was the first super meaningful one of many, many more exciting adventures.
That being said, I highly recommend that you start today – right this second in coming up with your 10 impossible things to do this summer. This could be the year you learn that you can do anything. This could be the year you learn you have more people who love you than you thought. If you have kids, I encourage you to convince them to do the same. Explain the rules but also show them that you would do everything in your power to make sure they get there. It may not work out like you or they expect, in fact, it probably won’t, but it could change their life as much as it did mine.
What are your impossible things?