It began in kindergarten, when I pushed my sister out of the way of a falling tree limb. I got clobbered but became a neighborhood legend. Near death plus survival equaled applause, I learned, and my body has paid the price ever since.
At 15, during a pro-am mountain-bike race, I bombed a downhill that the rest of the pack walked. The air I scored at the bottom was highlight-reel worthy. The landing, not so much.
Stupidity is a factor, I admit. At 21, I decided to hike a 14,000-foot peak, despite having a hangover that felt postoperative. I woke up with tubes in my arms and oxygen under my nose. But thanks to the miracle of Pedialyte, I took another run at it later that week.
For some reason, I can’t resist the feeling that summer is the time for shenanigans and risks, a time when heroes are made or broken, or both. I know I’m not alone.
In Hawaii, the summer after my hiking mishap, I jumped off a 60-foot cliff into the ocean, trying to impress a girl. Well, I neglected to cross my legs when I hit the water; it felt as though someone had walloped my groin with a cricket bat. The doctor had seen charmers like me before. I’d be fine, he said, as long as I laid low. I wasn’t upset. Summer was mostly over anyway. It ended like so many before, with nothing to show but a story and a stack of hospital bills.
This article is part of our Summer School series, a comprehensive guide to acing the year’s best season.