I remember summers growing up used to just go by. With no school there was usually a lot of laying around the house, swimming, and that is about all I remember of daily life. Maybe an occasional summer camp here or there, or a family trip, but all I can say for sure is that I took advantage of the time to relax. Come the end of my junior year, I was ready for something new. About a day or two into summer, I decided I wanted to challenge myself. While it is not your typical challenge, I challenged myself to start a journal. This journals purpose was to record what I did each and everyday. My idea behind this was that it would force me to step out of my comfort zone. I would be pushed to see people, try new things, and really reflect.
So at the end of each day, I would take out my pen and journal, write the date, and then ramble on about everything I had done that day. The people I saw, places I went, memories I made; nothing was too small to mention. Besides pushing myself to make the most of each day, I noticed that I was happier. I woke up each morning eager for what the day held. I made it my goal to "seize the day" each and every day. I was surrounded by people who brought out the best in me, and was constantly laughing. Making the conscious choice to reflect on everything I did each day forced me to realize how much there is to be grateful for in life. Now, years later, I still occasionally look back to relive the memories and read through how my summer went. From wild adventures to birthdays to BBQs out back I can look back and remember how special each day was.
I have never known anyone to do this before, so this concept was completely and entirely in my hands. I wanted to record memories to look back on and see. Most days I simply listed what I did that day rather than writing sentences. Even though it was rather to the point, I now have a record of my entire summer 2017. While I was on my mission trip that summer I sat on my bed each night writing what I did that day, what I saw, who we helped, and I was anything but shameful when people inquired about what I was doing. I loved sharing the concept with others, in hopes that they would try it out and have a similar experience. I learned through this that to be happy is to be whole. Not every moment of everyday is happy. But everyday has its happy moments. It is on us to find those moments and truly value them. In everyday life, we so often are too busy, stressed, or overwhelmed to realize the beauty of the world around us, and the gift it is to be alive. To take just 5 minutes a day to write down your highlights or even your struggles- it allows you to watch your progression, and see what is bringing you happiness and what might be holding you back.
When summer came to an end and it was time to jump back into academic mode, more specifically senior year, I knew I had something to share. The college essay and application process in general is a daunting task for many. I brainstormed topics and ideas, but struggled to find one that felt authentic, that is, until I began writing about my summer. Such a simple yet so transformative thing to write about. What to many is just a break from school, to me became a period of growth and realization. I traveled, volunteered, attended conferences, worked, spent time with family and friends, and overall that summer I found my happiness, and a version of myself that I hope to never lose.
While we are entering the dark months of Winter, I felt this was essential to share. This simple task of taking note of daily activities and dedicating time to reflecting on your day makes you more self aware, and might increase your gratitude as it did mine. It is important to take care of ourselves, especially in such an isolating time as now.
Below is my college essay that I wrote on this topic for anyone who is interested:)
An Unforgettable Summer
Now I know this may sound silly, or cliche, but summer 2017 has been the most memorable summer yet. High school can be a slump sometimes. Full of occasional drama, and frequent stress, it's easy to get caught up in the craziness, and lose track of what's important. This summer, something changed. After having a busy junior year, and not finding myself where I wished to be, I decided to take a break from all the stress and focus on myself for a change. I made myself a promise that this would be a summer of happiness; of good friends, of laughter, and of memories that would last a lifetime. In order to follow through with this and hold myself accountable, I dug up an old journal that had been collecting dust in my drawer, and vowed to write in it about what I did every single day. This way I had to go out of my comfort zone, get out of the house more, and make the most of my summer; and so this is where the story begins. I documented everything. The spontaneous trips to Boston, the movie nights, the people I spent my time with, the early mornings and late nights. Immediately, I began to notice how happy I was. My mind was at ease, my heart was full of gratitude, my days full of adventures and the people who bring out the best in me.
I spent a week in New York, on Lake George, volunteering and partaking in a mission trip through my church. I didn't have my phone, but I was able to capture moments just like a phone could, in my journal, for me to look back on, not for my followers or "friends" to judge and like. I had real conversations with people rather than through my phone, and my relationships grew to become stronger than ever. After a week of worshiping God, working with kids, doing yard work, and bonding, we were all exhausted. But there was no break, it was time to move onto the next task: bible camp. It's by far the best week of the summer. My two best friends and I spent months planning and expanding this summer program at our church, St John's the Evangelist. It was another week of early mornings, but it was gratifying to see all of our hard work pay off with all 90 campers and 60 counselors singing, dancing, and their never ending supply of energy and smiles. Each day after camp, once the kids went home, our day wasn't over yet. We spent time together being spontaneous, laughing, and creating memories. Right after camp ended, I hopped in a car and headed off to UMass Lowell for my third steubenville conference, where I was able to sing my heart out worshiping God, learn about his endless love, and do it all with some of my favorite people. The next couple of weeks I babysat most mornings, spent time with friends, both new and old, and made the most of each day. Eventually, I took a big step in flying alone for the first time to Indiana University for a Best buddies conference; full of new people and new ideas that I was eager to bring back to our chapter this year. I traveled all over with friends and family, from the Cape, to Myrtle beach, each morning brought a new adventure.
After each day, whether it be filled volunteering, working, or spending time with the people I love, I was full of happiness, which is all I could ever ask for. I have no regrets about my busy schedule or how I filled it. I learned a lot about myself this summer, and taught myself a lot too, but the most important thing I learned is, a happy life is a life well lived.