In the weeks leading up to summer vacation, I was having a good time at college, but I wasn't always necessarily happy. I was stressed in many aspects of my life — school, friendships, etc. — and I kept piling on my stressors and not constructively dealing with them. I kept thinking: Everything will be alright when summer comes. In summer, it'll all be fine.

As shocking as this may seem, the change of the season didn't miraculously solve all of my problems! *gasp*

Although I definitely felt happier without the stressors of school work, and the sunny weather brightened my mood, I still had looming issues that needed to be dealt with. My lack of productivity didn't magically resolve itself when summer came around. In fact, now that I am at home with nothing to do, a feeling of purposelessness has kind of taken over as well.

I realized that part of the problem was that I was putting way too much responsibility on an external factor, rather than taking charge of my life and constructively dealing with my problems. The change I needed wasn't a seasonal change or a locational change, it was a mindset change.

I had all these visions of how my summer was going to be: blue water, sunny skies, all my friends in one car, driving with the windows down and the radio up — you know, how summer is in the movies. And although there are definitely days like this when my life feels like a movie, the reality is that not every day can be like this.

The reality is that all my friends have busy schedules and jobs and well, other friends they hang out with too. The reality is that I live in Illinois, so the weather changes every 0.6 seconds and it might be sunny at 11 am and thunderstorms at 3 pm. The reality is that gas is expensive and so is literally everything else that's fun, so driving around all day and going to fun places every night is quite frankly unrealistic.

So, the million dollar question: if my summer isn't going to be perfect like they show in the movies, how can I still find my happiness?

For one, learning that happiness comes from within and not from other people is a great place to start. My mood is pretty much in my control, and I can learn to shift my thought process to a more optimistic one. Another thing I can do this summer is I can do all the things I always want to do but never have time for. I can read, paint, learn a new skill, go on walks, work out, etc. There is beauty in these little things, you don't have to go somewhere or spend money to have fun. I'm learning to challenge myself in all these little ways in order to find my zen in my own capabilities, rather than other people, and it honestly is changing my life. There are definitely days when I feel down and this task seems impossible, but as long as I keep my end goal in mind, there's nothing I can't do.