What Are You Doing This Summer?

What are you doing this summer?  With that nearly four-month long sojourn quickly approaching, I find myself looking forward to those long, lazy days by the beach, eating ice cream and spending time with friends.  However, when my friends, classmates, advisors, and parents ask me that question, I am hesitant to answer with that sunny fantasy. Instead, an answer along the lines of finding a job, internship, or something “beneficial to my future and resume” is always on the tip of my tongue.

An unfortunate side effect of American individualism and its societal environment of (oftentimes necessary) social ladder climbing is that stress culture is following college students into a time meant for decompressing.  During the school year, beyond just focusing on maintaining good grades and getting involved in extracurriculars, students must keep an eye on those impending application deadlines for the summer, next year, and even further down the line.  Fully-funded opportunities at Duke such as Bass Connections (and within that, Story+ and Data+), DukeEngage, Huang Fellows, and B-SURF are hot topics of conversation—as is their competitive nature. A rejection from them can be disproportionately upsetting, especially if a close peer did receive an acceptance.  Just going home to relax seems unproductive at the least, and like a defeat at the most.

So why do we all feel the need to be busy during the summer?  Is it that pre-professional pressure coming at us from all directions, or is it just FOMO?  Either way, these upcoming months are going to be—like freshman year was—a step towards independence.  That does not mean, though, that everything you do must be forcibly productive. Achieving independence and moving towards adulthood does not entail separating yourself completely from the comfort of family and old friends.  It can be simply learning how to actually cook, reading a book you have been meaning to but never had the time for, or getting your daily thirty minutes of exercise in. Yes, preparing for the “real world” is important, but sometimes it is nice to just exist in the present.