For the last month of the school year, campus is ringing with the question, “What are your plans for this summer?”
When we were younger, the answer was simple: swimming, grandma’s house, Disney Channel, and mom forcing you to sign up for the Summer Reading Program at the local library.
But college is a whole different ball game. I grew to dread that question by the end of the year. Now that we are in college and are eventually trying to become bankers, engineers, doctors, and environmental researchers, we are expected to fill our summers up with résumé-boosting internships and jobs. I listened to all of my friends describe their impressive opportunities and I was truly excited and proud of them. They all worked extremely hard and knew what they wanted to do.
The reason I dreaded the question was because my answer was, “I have no idea.” That was the plain-faced truth, but it hardly felt up to par with my peers. I had gotten so wrapped up in my school work, amongst other things, that the end of the year snuck up on me. By the time I was hurriedly shoving my whole dorm room into boxes and throwing them in storage, there it was. Summer. No job, no impressive research lab, and no internship lined up. I take full responsibility for that, but it ended up being the best thing that could have happened.
I realized how much I needed to recharge. The last few months of the year had been mentally exhausting, to put it lightly. It was like running a race where everything seemed to be going wrong, but you just have to muster up all your strength for the final push across the finish line until you can happily collapse on the ground. Well, finals were my finish line after a really rough race, and I just needed to lie on the ground for a while.
After I caught my breath, I started planning. I did the only thing that seemed acceptable. I made the ultimate bucket list. I had more than three months and no excuses. I’ll spare the details and just tell you some of the awesome things that have happened because I did not have a sophisticated summer plan.
- I got my tonsils out, which at my age is supposed to hurt more than childbirth (alright, not so awesome). Shout out to my high pain tolerance for letting me eat mac n’ cheese on the second day, though. No more snoring!
- I snorkeled at Catalina Island with the brilliant orange Garibaldi (official marine state fish of California, just FYI).
- I learned how to drive stick shift (okay, it’s a work in progress).
- I took a spontaneous trip to Texas to visit my friends from school. I went standup paddle boarding, ate authentic Tex-Mex, and searched for armadillos (no luck), all for the first time.
- I went whale watching and actually saw blue whales - best day EVER!
- I got to be a volunteer counselor at a camp for children living with disabilities, where I became friends with some of the most amazing people on this planet.
- I took my first yoga class, where I accidentally kicked the lady behind me in the face. I felt accomplished for finally using my yoga pants for yoga, though.
- I volunteered at a surf camp for children with critical illnesses.
- And I am waking up in about 5 hours to shadow the surgeon who performed my tonsillectomy.
I have learned more about myself and my community this summer than in the past 10 years combined. The best part is my bucket list continues. I have come to be overwhelmingly grateful that I did not have all of my ducks in a row a few months ago. While I would have learned an immense amount working as an intern or research assistant, I have been a student of the world this summer. I have continually stepped out of my comfort zone and I realized how much room for growth I have as a person.
Now when I go back to school and the hallways reverberate with “How was your summer?!”, I will not dread the question. Quite the opposite.