The Fourth of July weekend is great. There are cookouts and beach vacations and fireworks and hamburgers and more beer than an ASU senior drinks in a weekend. But there's an air of sadness about it, too. Not just because the holiday reminds us of a simpler, more hopeful America. But because, if you think about it, it kinda means the summer is almost halfway over. It's been six weeks since Memorial Day and now we're getting into the thick of July, meaning before we know it, Labor Day will be upon us and then fall, horrible horrible fall. It's practically Christmas already, is what I'm saying. Which means you need to get going on having that great summer you were planning. Here are some suggestions to make that happen.

Stop talking about going to the beach. And actually go to the beach! Judy's been walking into the office every Monday morning since May looking happy and tan and you always say, "Another weekend at the beach?" and she sighs and dreamily says, "Yeah, it was great." And you respond "Been meaning to get to the beach myself this summer." Which you always say. And yet you never go. Because the weekend is actually a pretty short amount of time, and there's sleeping that needs to be done on Saturday and then those DVR'd episodes of Four Weddings aren't going to watch themselves. By Sunday it's almost the work week again so you don't want to spend your last day of sweet, precious freedom stuck in a car going to some crowded beach full of jerks and their even jerkier kids. You're supposed to do all that and be home in time to watch Dexter? It's absurd. But. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Go to bed early on Friday instead of folding like a cheap card table when your coworkers try to convince you to have one last round at happy hour and then wake up at a reasonable hour on Saturday, don't even bother turning on the TV or opening the computer, and get in the car and go. Just like that you'll be beach-bound and the summer will be saved. Until of course you realize that you maybe should have at least briefly turned on the TV or opened the computer to check the weather.

Read that damn book. There it is. Sitting on the coffee table or nightstand, where it's been since you oh so ambitiously went to Barnes & Noble or got on Amazon back in May and decided this was the summer. This was finally the year that your big summer reading project would actually happen. You're going to read Infinite Jest! You'll finally be one of those smartypants literary types who really get it. Or, oh how you'll wax on in the autumn, in turtleneck and tweed, about all the metaphor and symbolism in Crime & Punishment. (They don't have to know you just finished it at the end of August.) Or, hell, you'll finally know what all your nerd friends are yammering on about — Wester who? Mother of what? — because you'll have read Game of Thrones. I know you've been putting it off since you bought the book, what with the backlog of Us Weeklys to catch up on and all that Candy Crush that needs playing. But you've still got time. Forget who Desiree is going to pick on Bachelorette. Say see ya later to Rihanna's undeniably fascinating Instagram. It is time to get to reading. Like you're back in school. Well, no, this is for fun and enlightenment. It's not an assignment. It's an adventure. So go sit out in the lawn chair and at least get a few pages read before you doze off under the lazy summer sun.

Run for your life. Remember when you swore, positively swore, that this summer you were going to get out of the gym and actually go running in the outdoors? Around the park or through the housing development or up by that old mansion where the kids drink? Yeah, well, it's the Fourth of July already and you've done nothing of the sort. It's still the old halfhearted, low-incline thirty minutes on the elliptical, the machine by the wall with the broken display thing, so you can't see how many calories you're not burning. You were supposed to be really running, maybe even training for that "fun run" thing they have down by the high school in October, y'know the Pumpkin Patch Race or whatever its whimsical name is. That was the fantasy, you the runner in the crisp fall air, you being that kind of person all of a sudden, someone who goes running in the fall and afterwards stands flushed but happy, drinking cider and talking to friends, maybe even one particular special friend. And that was all going to start this summer. With the running. That you're not doing. And, to be honest, you're not doing much gymming either. It was four days a week when you first signed up in April, but now... OK. Maybe it's more realistic to get back into the gym stuff this summer and then you can start really running in early fall, when it's still nice out, and you'll be ready for a real race by the time you go home for Thanksgiving, and there's the Turkey Trot that you know Eric from high school runs in every year. And maybe you can just casually bump into him and he'll say "You look great!" and you'll demurely brush it off, casually say it's nothing, you've just been running.

Play ball. Or, at least, watch ball. Every year it's the same story: This is the summer you're going to get the family or some friends together and go to a game at Fenway, or Wrigley, or Camden Yards, or Coney Island (go Cyclones!), or wherever. Because that's like the summeriest thing you can do, right? Sit and watch a baseball game and drink a beer and eat a hotdog and look up at the summery sky and really feel like you're doing things right for once. That's what you've been telling yourself to do for years! And yet. The tickets are too expensive or you can't decide on a date or who really cares about the team they're playing on the date you do decide on or, wait, how long are baseball games. There's always some excuse that has you sitting not in the bleachers cheering for the home team, but wallowing at home, still drinking a beer and eating a hotdog, only you're in your underpants on the couch watching Chopped. So, no more of that! Get on the phone or at least on your email and put this thing together. You're gonna love it. Sure the parking will be a nightmare and everything's going to be distressingly expensive and hey it turns out rabid baseball fans are sort of horrible, but you'll be there. That's what counts. There with the golden stadium lights and the green, green grass and the feeling that you're finally a good American enjoying this most American of seasons.

Kiss them. Come on already. It's July! This summer fling is not going to happen if you don't make a move. She keeps flirting with you when you're both on shift together at the ice cream stand. He's definitely been checking you out when you run ahead of him to your lifeguard station. So what's the holdup? The next time you're sitting by the bonfire and someone's playing guitar and you're a little fuzzy from the weed and whatever weird mix of parents' booze is in your big red cup, just go for it. What have you got to lose? He's going to Bowdoin in the fall so he'll be all the way up in, like, Maine if it gets weird. She's only in town staying with her aunt and uncle for the summer — before you know it she'll be back in France and you'll never see her again. Isn't that sad and wistful and romantic, just like the summer itself? So why not. Take the plunge. Ask her out. Send him a text. Whatever way you want to do it. Because in just a matter of weeks the nights are going to be cooler and there will be that feeling in the air like the spell is lifting, that the practicalities of the non-summer world are seeping back in. And then it will be too late. Now is your chance. The fireworks might be a good time. Who hasn't wanted to make out with someone while fireworks go off behind them? It's perfect. Or, it could be.

[Image by Kudryashka via Shutterstock]