Summer Break: A squandered hiatus

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A summer spent inside a bland office building is a summer wasted. Photo courtesy of Melanie McGonigle.

While my overwhelming desire to graduate leaves me currently indifferent, I’ve previously lamented the proximity of graduation for a simple reason: no more summer vacation. Now, as a soon to be college graduate, summer will become a season of normalcy rather than a hiatus from life at UD.

While yes, break is a hiatus by its very definition, I think that ought not to define one’s summer. I can only speak for myself, and I wholeheartedly attest that my summers would have been happier and more fulfilling if I had treated my summer breaks as my life, rather than a hiatus from it.

The very title of ‘summer break’ denotes about a quarter of the year as separate from the rest of it. You are separated from your life as a student. While yes, you still maintain your identity as a student, you are unable to act as a student in the same way. You can’t partake in discussions or present research, etc., simply because the opportunity is lacking.

In a way, this separation leaves a void of some kind. When you shift to that new schedule, that schedule is not the same as you’ve been accustomed to or what you’re going back to in a few short months. Going back to old social circles or finding new ones seems to further separate summer from the experience of your everyday academic life. 

This separation is not inherently a bad thing. But in my experience, I lived my summer breaks in a way that made this separation a bad thing. For me, summers have consistently been a mixture of proximate, practical goals all oriented toward one overarching one: work enough jobs . . . to get enough hours . . . to make enough money . . . to pay for tuition. 

I realized that, ultimately, it’s a mindset dominated by goal-oriented behavior. And it made me miserable. 

My individual days didn’t matter – just the fact that my flight to UD took off in 62, 61 . . . days. The fact that I closed and opened for days on end at the expense of my sleep schedule didn’t matter – just that I would pay for tuition with money to spare. I wouldn’t have time to go to family parties or see my friends regularly, but that was okay as long as I was prepared for school next semester.

This goal-driven mentality didn’t allow me to live. My summers weren’t entirely squandered, but I do wonder how I’d be different today if I approached my summers differently.

With the close of academia approaching, with our society’s ‘track’ for youth closing, my life’s future is vague and malleable now, and the overarching, longer-term goals of everyday life cannot be as practical or defined. 

Now, as a graduating senior, I don’t even have the choice to live out my summer for the sake of something three months in the future. I have to live in the now. I have to orient myself, my aims and my behavior on the proximate, beneficial and healthy thing. 

This past academic year has been a wild one for me, and I’ve watched myself change, struggle and adapt. I’ve realized that maturity is not fostered simply by aging, or the passage of time, or even experience. Maturity and development are fostered by mindset.

The three months of summer don’t have to be an eternity, nor do they necessarily have to be too short. The experience of time is relative, malleable by experiences. Summer’s three months do not denote a deadline for survival until school starts; summer’s three months provide the time to experience life, to experience yourself. 

That’s why I wonder how my summers could have been different. If I had lived my summers in the moment, if I had searched for fulfillment in my daily life, if I had sought to care for my well being every day, how would I have developed differently? What would have happened if I had lived by the moment rather than on a treadmill of hiatus? 

As a senior with no more summers left to squander, my intention is to share my experience. Maybe it’ll help you avoid it.

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