As a future-driven multitasker, I’ve been in a state of liminality lately, existing in two places at once. One foot has been grounded at the end of the semester quickly approaching, hustling to meet deadlines, complete assignments, study for finals and prepare for upcoming responsibilities. The other foot has been pointed to summer, planning out a gym schedule, thinking of self-care practices to try out and adventures to embark on.
The end of every school year and the beginning of every summer starts off this way for me. What’s different this time around though, is that I know within a couple of months, I won’t be returning to the comfort of taking classes on my laptop at home. Instead, I’ll be back on campus, which I had only been on once since the pandemic began.
October 21, 2020, I wrote about “How to Succeed on Zoom University,” and months later, I now find myself writing how to prepare myself to be back at school.
Within the three months that make up the summer before most students shift back to in-person learning, time feels more urgent than ever to me. I feel like I’m racing against my dorm move-in date, trying to ensure I soak up the peace of being home and am mentally ready for the stress that may come along with adjusting back to living on campus.
To do that, I’ve been in the process of trying to better care for myself. That entails a lot of things, all of which are a part of the self-love process I’ve been trying to nail down. Self-love looks different for everyone, but I am challenging all those that read this article to devote this summer to really pushing yourself to grow so that you can enter the chaos of the next school year with full confidence and excitement.
Step one is to acknowledge that any anxiety surrounding the return back to campus is normal. Even if people around you may seem beyond excited, it’s understandable for you to feel uneasy after a year of adjusting to a “new normal.” Striving to heal over the summer can be a big step in feeling more ready for the changes to come and reintegrating into a school and social setting.
For starters, say yes this summer to all the adventures you can while still staying COVID safe. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and help you to create the most unforgettable memories, but don’t be afraid to go on those adventures alone either. Lockdown has definitely made many people feel uncomfortable by stopping them from seeing their friends, and while I’m sure a lot of you are jumping at the thought of seeing them again when school starts, I hope that you still fill your summer with some time spent alone.
When I say “time spent alone,” I mean challenging yourself to sit with your thoughts and feelings and embracing them as you learn who you are. I mean doing things you would typically think to bring friends along, like taking a trip to the beach, watching a sunrise or sunset, going to the mall, etc. My own personal goal is to one day be comfortable enough to eat out at a restaurant alone. That might sound simple for some people, but for others, like myself, it’s scary and would be a milestone to reach.
I also encourage you to do things that might not be necessarily seen as “adventures,” but are really effective acts of self-love to work into your daily routine. Swapping out your phone at night for a few pages of a book. Doing a few minutes of yoga or walking at the start of your day. Speaking kind words to yourself when you start to feel self-doubt rising. Clearing your room of any items that no longer bring you joy. Doing research on therapy. These might not seem glamorous, but something I’ve learned is that the process of growth and self-care often isn’t. But learning to enjoy our own company will prepare us to not only offer a healthier, more confident version of ourselves in friendships and academics once we return to school, but also teach us to take care of ourselves and cherish our wellbeing if stress or loneliness starts to set in.
Quarantine also provided some of us a lot of time to spend with our families. Being able to spend so much time with my parents and dogs throughout the year was undoubtedly the biggest blessing to come out of my lockdown experience. Commuting isn’t much of an option for my next semester, so I’ll definitely be back in a dorm and not able to see them as often as I do right now. For those that feel weary of not being with family as often, cherish the seemingly mundane, everyday things you do with them. Appreciate sharing meals, running errands together, being able to visit their rooms and talk with one another at any given moment, and all the things in-between. Do little things to show your loved ones that you value them and the time you share by initiating bonding activities together, even if it’s something as easy as putting on a movie or doing the dishes for them.
Take this summer to nurture yourself, inside and out, however that may look for you. As many lows as the pandemic have brought, I appreciate the way it has slowed downtime for me. Before time completely picks back up and we’re thrown into the upcoming school year, I’m rooting for us to heal and grow so that we’re more than ready to succeed and offer our best selves by the end of it all!