Slowing Down Your Summer

"What did you do this summer?"

The question that nearly every person is asked the moment they arrive back at school after Summer Break. Some will respond with the travels they took, most will say some form of work, but no matter how you answer that question, there always seems to be this underlying need to impress whoever is asking it.

No, you’re not crazy for wanting to impress people. And yes, this build-up of increased pressure to always be “doing something” is no secret to our generation.

Over the past decade or so, we have begun to see what is known as the rise of “credentialism.” To briefly explain, credentialism is the rise in credentials needed for lower and lower levels of work. Essentially, our group of students is getting less “bang for their buck” in education because a higher degree is needed for what were previously considered entry-level positions. To add to this, students feel the increased pressure to make the most of their time outside the classroom to make themselves stand out amongst peers and make their college degrees hold more meaning.

But with all of these thoughts swirling in young peoples’ minds, a question arises: how much further are we going to push this idea?

Already, before students even enter their freshman year of college they are looking for and/or completing internships. Commonly, there is no longer such a thing as a “free summer.” We also see this concept manifesting itself in children’s sports leagues, where parents will shell out thousands of dollars to play on club-level and elite teams at increasingly young ages. We see tweets and posts all over about people having baby or wedding fever in their late teens and early twenties. Overall, people from our generation, in particular, feel a push to rush the events in their lives.

With so much going on around us, and the idea that success is equivalent to moving at a faster pace than everyone around you, it seems almost impossible to fathom taking an entire summer to just breathe and not do anything seemingly related to your future. Well, that is exactly what I did this summer.

For the past eight years, I have been going to summer camp. Out of those eight, the past four have been spent as a staff member living on Lake Erie. Of course, lifeguarding and watching over children are important jobs, but on the surface, they are not outwardly related to my studies in marketing, political science, writing, and pre-law.

However, I have found that an amazing thing happens when you begin to invest your time in things you actually want to do rather than things you’re simply doing as a resume builder: you find that your interests play a huge subconscious role in determining what you want to do with your future. Rather than simply “watching kids,” I got to be involved in a team of young adults monitoring and breaking down the behavioral issues involved with childcare. Instead of just lifeguarding, I got to manage a staff of 15 lifeguards along with an entire array of pool, beach, and pond equipment. Not only was I a camp counselor, but I was also in charge of inventory, graphic design, and sales of camp merchandise. Each one of these unique factors into my studies and my tentative plans for the future without me having to give up going to the place that I love.

I won’t exclude myself from feeling the pressures of school and the need to use up every “free” moment of my time to build up my resume. But at the same time, there is a point where you need to know when to do something for yourself now rather than yourself in 5-10 years. Down the road, it is the memories you form from experiences where you truly enjoyed yourself that will stick with you.

So instead of casting off these as wasted time or missed internship opportunity, let’s recognize the amazing growth and experiences we found in some of our most formative and allowedly selfish years of our lives. Let’s re-normalize the idea of students having meaningful time off, instead of working so hard that by the time graduation rolls around they are completely burnt out. Most of all, let’s remind ourselves constantly that once we pass this time in our lives, there is no going back.

Life is not a race and there is no figurative timer which goes off saying that we must be done with college or we must reach certain milestones in our lives at specified times. We set the pace for our own lives.

So no, I didn’t get to write on my resume that I had an internship this summer. I didn’t take any kind of classes. I didn’t go out of my way to prepare for the future. But for one of the first times in my life, I did something solely for me. I gave myself space to breathe. I surrounded myself with my friends and family. I made memories that I will hold onto forever. I had fun. And amazingly, it worked out better than anything else I could’ve seen myself doing.

 

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