It's that time of year where everyone is asking each other about their summer internships, research, and other resume-building plans.
Whenever I get this question, I panic and never know exactly what to say. I know what the answer should be. I should be excited to start "paying my dues" and working up the ladder. I should be excited to start working toward my career. But here's the thing... I'm not.
In the short-term:
I want to enjoy my last summer before graduation. I want to be able to go to the beach with my family and go on road trips with my friends. I want to be lazy and relax. I want to sleep in until 11am because I can.
I just got finished with finals. My brain is fried. I need the next three months to properly forget everything I learned last semester to make room for the forthcoming semester.
If I do decide to get a job this summer, I want to explore jobs that will be fun or allow me to learn new skills. Maybe I could work at Starbucks and learn to make drinks or perhaps I could be a lifeguard and learn how to perfectly apply sunscreen.
This is the last chance I'm going to have to explore and do things just for the heck of it without facing real, "adult" consequences.
The way I see it, I have the rest of my life to work. I shouldn't burn myself out now.
In the long-term:
Even when I do enter the post-college adult world, I'm still not going to be one of those "my career is everything" people. I do want a solid job that pays my bills and in which I can feel like I am helping others... but I also want a job that I can compartmentalize.
For instance, last summer, I was a CNA (certified nursing assistant). Not only did I work stressful 12-hour shifts, I also took the work home with me and stressed about it off-the-clock. After that, I realized that in the future, I must have a career that I am able to compartmentalize.
Don't get me wrong, I want to work hard at my job. However, afterward, I want to get home from my 9-5 and be able to cook dinner and relax. I want to be able to read or go for a walk. I want to go out with friends without having to worry about various aspects of work.
When I think about what I want out of life, I care more about the people and relationships I form than my career. I care more about investing in my hobbies than investing in my job title. I care more about living a well-rounded life than having a top tier career.
Being OK with it:
While working long weeks and putting their all into their jobs works for many people, that just isn't for me.
However, in a career-driven world, and especially at a career-driven school like UVA, I find myself feeling looked down upon for not being career-driven.
When I tell certain people that I don't have concrete summer plans yet, they reply with "Oh, that sounds so chill!" that obviously contradicts the look in their eyes of "Oh my goodness, I'm stressed out for you."
I don't think I, or anyone else, should feel bad about not doing what everyone else around us seems to be doing. Some people will be achieving great things by working at internships or pursuing other great resume builders this summer, and that is awesome. Some people will be playing on the beach with their family and making memories that will last a lifetime, and that is also awesome.
In such a career-driven culture, it's OK not to be. It's OK to have higher priorities. It's OK to if you don't want to become the next Patty Jenkins or Kanye.