If you’re lucky enough to be a part of the club of people who grew up on a lake, you know that it’s the best childhood you can ask for. Hailing from Michigan, the Great Lakes State, my fate was sealed before my first lifejacket was ever buckled. The summers spent on open water, the camaraderie of fellow boaters, nightly bonfires, and daily sunburns are just a part of life. But growing up on water shapes so many aspects of your identity and has a lasting impact on who you are.
1. You respect rules and traditions.
There are certain guidelines that you have to adhere to on the water, and you do so out of courtesy to your fellow boaters and for the safety of your passengers. If you don’t follow the rules, even the unwritten ones, things can get dangerous. You also have a respect for traditions, like unmarked no wake zones, boat-beaching areas and chipping in a few dollars for the annual Fourth of July fireworks show—they all solidify you as part of the community.
2. You knew how to drive on water before you could drive on land.
You earned your boater’s license promptly at age 14 and never looked back. There are a few extra things to know when it comes to cars, but the basics are pretty much the same, and you were a pro by the time you got to driver’s ed at age 16.
3. You like to keep your house full of people.
Summer meant friends—and lots of them. All the time. Family from out of town always made a point to visit, and family friends camped out during holiday weekends. Your house was constantly filled with people, and every weekend was a party. Even if you no longer live on a lake, you probably tend toward large gatherings, especially if they involve being near water.
4. You know how to entertain.
(See #3.) You can whip up a beautiful spread of veggies, chips, dips and grilled delicacies in record time. You have a fridge/cooler dedicated solely to beverages. You keep far too many extra chairs in storage, just in case. You never underestimate the power of a well-placed decorative sign and festive centerpiece, but you also know the key to a great evening or weekend is the people and conversation. Entertaining is second nature to you, and you wouldn’t have it any other way.
5. You love the smell of bonfires.
Lakes and bonfires go together like peanut butter and jelly. The crackling of fire and gentle rolling of waves on the shore is a melody you can never forget. Whenever you smell a bonfire, it immediately takes you back to evenings spent roasting s’mores and going for late night cruises.
6. The Fourth of July is your favorite holiday.
In the dead center of summer comes a holiday that so perfectly aligns with living on a lake, you couldn’t have planned it better if you tried. Patriotism, sunshine, water sports, cookouts, and fireworks– I mean, really. If you’re like me, you may even count your years in Fourth of Julys instead of New Years.
7. You’re not afraid to make a fool of yourself.
Between being thrown off tubes, face planting while skiing/wakeboarding, and dive attempts that turned into painful belly-flops, you have no shame in trying new things. You’ve also perfected the cannonball jump and will continue to use it despite your age.
8. You can tie a knot like nobody’s business.
Fisherman’s knot, overhand knot, bowline, lark’s knot, you know ‘em all. Bonus points if you were in the Girl/Boy Scouts as well.
9. You appreciate all of the seasons.
It may be sad when Labor Day rolls around and the boat is retired to its trailer, but you know that summer will come again. Waiting for those months of sun and fun is just a part of life, and you can appreciate the beauty of the other seasons as well. Plus, the lake freezes over in the winter, the ice skates and snowmobiles come out, which can be just as much of a good time.
10. Nature doesn’t freak you out.
From a young age, you learned that spiders (which are in abundance near water) eat those pesky mosquitoes, so you learned to love them. You got tangled in seaweed when you went flying off the tube, and perhaps even made accessories out of it to scare your non-lake friends. Snakes, turtles and frogs made a fun challenge to capture—and let go, of course. Splashing around in the muck was no big deal.
11. You take care of the things around you.
We all know when the storm rolls in, there’s a switch that turns on in us that gets everything under shelter or inside and covers or cranks up the boat in under five minutes. You learned to take care of your belongings promptly so you wouldn’t have to deal with a bigger mess later.
12. You have a more relaxed outlook on the world.
On the water, you can’t control everything. You can steer the boat, but the water is the ultimate decision-maker. You just have to go with the flow and try your best to navigate whatever comes your way.
It’s safe to say that you’d be a different person without the lake, which is why we’ll always have a soft spot for weekends spent on the water and the lessons it teaches us.