Summer 2021 was supposed to be grand. It was supposed to be a return to “normal,” a chance to remember what life was like before quarantine. It was also supposed to be a new opportunity for me, a half-heartedly determined 20-year-old, to try to figure things out. It was supposed to be a lot of things, but above all else, it was supposed to be better.
It was better, but not in the way that I expected it to be, nor in the way that I realized it was in the moment. As I now reflect on June, July, and August, I see how the downsides of the pandemic — such as long-distance friendships and the many tech issues of remote work — were also met with upsides. These upsides include developing new skills in networking, as well as taking the time to understand my current priorities. More than that, the second summer of the pandemic allowed me to be my own company and recognize my own needs and what I want for myself.
I got to work –– in more ways than one
Over the summer, I was lucky enough to find a communications internship through my school’s job board at a municipal chamber of commerce. The job was remote, flexible, and I was the first person to ever have that role. I really had the opportunity to craft it according to my current abilities and the skills I wanted to improve. While I had never pictured myself working locally in public policy, as I’ve always aimed towards opportunities in journalism, I realized there was so much more I could get out of the job aside from writing publications, designing social media posts, and creating multimedia.
Stepping outside of my introverted comfort zone, I did everything I could to network –– I spoke with my boss, got connected to some of her former colleagues, and gained amazing advice on entering the workforce. I learned how to stand up for myself and never say no to a new opportunity. Through my networking, I even got to have a one-on-one Zoom session with a major figure at a national news station, who offered to connect me with some of her colleagues in journalism as well!
Networking was an unnatural feeling at first, and it definitely felt weird sending emails and requesting meetings out of the blue. But I can’t imagine a feeling more worth it, especially because I hadn’t imagined the remote work of the pandemic would make networking easier. Learning how to actually make meaningful and long-lasting connections was something that this second summer of the pandemic gave me the opportunity to truly understand and carry with me, and I’m not sure I would’ve come away with the same perspective in any other situation.
I learned how to get what I deserve
During the previous summer of the pandemic in 2020, I wanted to figure out what I deserved in life. If that sounds like a monumental and confusing task, that’s because it was. I didn’t know what it meant to see what I deserved for myself in terms of my goals, aspirations, and relationships, and I realized it was something for me to work on after coming to this revelation during the school year. What didn’t fully click for me at the time was exactly how to get these amazing things that I deserve.
In my opinion, this is something that can never fully click for anyone, as it’s something that requires consistent and dedicated effort over time. But, we can all learn to improve ourselves in the smallest of ways. Seeking professional mental health help, starting an ongoing dialogue with friends and family you feel safe with, and prioritizing self-care are all important steps to getting what you deserve.
For example, during this second summer of the pandemic, I learned that getting all the things that I deserve and want out of life has to come from a genuine place of self-love and care. I used to want a relationship and thought that I deserved one simply for the sake of being loved and admired by another person. Now, after taking the time to self-reflect, I know that relationships should be more than just what I get out of them, but also a representation of the love, trust, and accountability I share with other people. It took me a lot of time to understand the significance of this, and of course it comes with its own pain, heartache, and confusion. But the kinds of things that never come lightly are the things that impact you in the most positive ways.
Summer 2020 was forgettable, and I aimed to do everything I could to prevent summer 2021 from being the same. While it may not have been filled with crowded concerts, in-person internships, and nights out with friends, it was filled with a newfound understanding of how I want to shape my adult life for next summer, and the summer after that one. What I’ll take away from this past summer is something I’ll always remember, even if the circumstances around it might be tempting to forget.