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Shell Shocked: The downside of leaving Sanibel each year

September 6, 2018
By Art Stevens , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Labor Day weekend. What memories does it bring back? To me it was the end of an endless summer and a return to school.

When I was a youngster my school year typically ended the last day of June. During July and August my family rented a cabin in the mountains near a beautiful lake. Those two months were among the most glorious of my life. I'd hike, fish, play baseball and basketball and pal around with friends I made every summer.

Then suddenly it was the end of August and my heart started pounding. No, no, I said to myself, I don't want to go back. I want to stay here forever and play with my friends. Who needs school?

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Art Stevens

I begged my dad to get a job in the town where we spent our summers and he gave me a bemused smile. "Son," he said, "I know you had a wonderful summer, but you know deep down in your heart that we have a home to go back to. I have a job where we live and you need to go back to school. All your friends will be going back to school. You need a good education so that one day you can go to college."

I wasn't giving up yet. To this day I remember my emotional response to my dad's explanation. "But why do I have to go to college? If I lived here in the mountains I could start working earlier and become a gas station attendant or a forest ranger. I'd be good at that," I said.

But I couldn't persuade my father or my brothers or my mom. The day before Labor Day we packed up the car, said goodbye to our summer friends and returned to the big city. I was not a happy camper. But I had no choice. I went back to school, got reacquainted with my city friends and eventually got back into the swing of things. I never thought about my pre-adolescent state of mind - until I got to Sanibel and became a snowbird.

And then it happened all over again. I've spent every winter in Sanibel for a number of years now, made new friends here and yet each year I experience the same feeling of foreboding, dread and sadness I felt as a kid when I was "forced" to return home at the end of the winter season. My state of mind is exactly what it was when I was 12 years old begging my dad not to return home.

But what excuse do I have now? I'm an adult and can come and go as I please. I could indeed sell my northern home and live in Sanibel year-round. But the greater force that is within me - and was within me when I was a kid - is to punish myself for enjoying a period of time away from what was my real home too much. So the emotions I go through every year at the end of April when I return north are the same I suffered through when Labor Day approached when I was young.

You might say that I should see a shrink for the self-torture routine I've put myself through every year. But you know what? The one thing I learned when I was a kid was how much more I enjoyed the endless summers in the mountains when I was forced to return home at their conclusion. And so it is with Sanibel, my jewel in the crown. I enjoy my winters in Sanibel more because I make the same sacrifice each year when I return north.

What would Freud say about this? In order to create more joy one must endure the opposite of joy? I don't know about you but it sure works for me even though it breaks my heart to leave Sanibel each spring.

Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.



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