Two Halves, One Summer

Summertime, when the long awaited end of school meets two and a half months of seemingly endless possibilities until the next school year. Well, at least that’s what it used to mean.

Inevitably, as we get older, what was once a time of enjoyment and relaxation has turned into a time of intense résumé-building in the never ending rat-race.  Perhaps it was the summer musical number in the second installment of “High School Musical” that gave us unrealistic expectations of what to do over summer. Summer is no longer an idle time in which life pauses so we can bask in the warm weather and recover from a long school year.

Instead, as college students preparing to enter the work force, we face the stark realization that there is no summer vacation in the real world. And our one-way ticket into the real world is our résumé. As one of the most coveted documents to a college student, a blank space on our résumé — representing an idle summer — only raises questions and doubts about how you choose to use your spare time.

Ask any college student their plans for the summer, and many will describe a summer occupied with school, work, internships, volunteer work, study abroad programs, the list goes on and on. Words on a piece of paper handed to you at graduation are no longer enough to prove that you learned something in your college years. The standards set by employers and graduate schools are only getting higher. Now, they expect to see relevant experience and productivity once the traditional school year is finished. This marathon toward the next job or the next spot in a graduate school seems to consume the summers of college kids. Summers used to be a long-awaited period for rest and play, but as we get older reality sinks in: life doesn’t stop when summer arrives, and we are expected to keep up.

This ethereal concept of “summertime” used to mean more than some shallow sort of relaxing — it was archetypally valuable. It meant not only that there was still a place in our lives for rest, for reflection, but also that everything we did the rest of the year had value. How hard we worked during the school year was an indication of how much rest we deserved during the summer. Furthermore, there’s a different sort of learning inherent in the long days of the easy season — lessons experienced from sunburns and hot asphalt and the temporary abandonment of responsibility. It’s an important part of becoming who you are, this mature individual, and to abandon it completely (like so many of us feel pressured to do) is to toe the line of autonomy.

As we transition from children to adults, the spirit of summer, the ability to do anything anytime, has slowly vanished. The limitless possibilities that the two-and-a-half months bring with us have now turned to two and a half hour commutes to activities that we may not enjoy, but feel are necessary for a successful future. They have garnered our full attention, often leaving little time to enjoy the relatively slower pace of summer.

But despite all the mayhem that comes with summer, keeping the carefree attitude alive is still crucial. Taking a day off here and there helps strike the balance between work and play, which is what summer should be about.

So this summer, remember to take a day off, detach from technology, grab some sunscreen and a newspaper, and relish in the spirit of summer