Compared to the June-August summers of my pre-college years, a summer break lasting until the end of September seems more like splurging on a killer pair of shoes, a superfluous luxury that you convince yourself you need. Once June hit I mentally listed all I wanted to achieve during those fifteen weeks of blissful irresponsibility: make a short film, start swimming, play tennis regularly, redecorate my apartment and answer to no one. I referred to it as my primal summer, reverting back to a state of pure self-interest. In reality, I spent most of my summer serving up popcorn and ice cream to Newport Beach moms and dads at the movie theatre in Fashion Island. Primal indeed.
The movie theatre was my first “real” job, clocking in and out four days a week, wearing a tragically unflattering uniform, interacting with a motley crew of co-workers. Despite these drawbacks, I was excited for fat paychecks and to finally get a chance to escape the bubble of UC Irvine.
I live on campus, have jobs on campus and am involved with several campus organizations, so my first two years in Orange County were Zot-heavy. Add in the fact that I don’t have a car and UC Irvine quickly became a place to escape, rather than a place to cherish.
Bus pass in hand, my summer spent “on the Island,” as I endearingly called my job, was a nosedive into independence and a world entirely dissociated from college. Connecting with coworkers from all backgrounds and experiences, interacting with customers with varying degrees of politeness — all this was an anomaly to me.
Perhaps the most perplexing element to my summer was its tangible deadline. I knew from day one at the theatre that come September, I was out of there. Understanding this brought a wave of emotions, ranging from morose to empowerment.
“I wish I could stay during the school year — I love the people I work with!”
“I can’t wait to leave, this job sucks and I have a much more fulfilling life to live!”
Day by day, these were the exclamations that cycled through my mind, leading me to go in detached and leave only slightly saddened.
Knowing when something is going to end creates a paradox in the experience leading up to that finale, especially when the end falls under that ambiguous realm of “soon.” On the one hand, you try not to become too emotionally invested in the situation because you realize that before you know it, it’s over. Yet, you also can’t help but enjoy whatever it is you’re doing and find pockets of fun wherever possible because, hey, this is something you’re dedicating yourself to so you want to at the very least like it.
Then when the day comes and you have to leave, say goodbye, accept your life beyond those walls of structure and predictability; you feel relieved, liberated and maybe even a little afraid.
Fear over the fact that you spent the last few months accomplishing very few of the tasks self-assigned when you knew you would have so much free time. Fear because if you can’t prioritize your time during summer then how on earth are you going to once school starts and your free time shrinks microscopically. Fear because it all went by too fast, that you thought you would have more time to get everything done. Fear of the truth that you can’t control time the way you want to and before you know it, college will be over, with nothing but real life and the adult world awaiting you.
Time management is a simple concept to explain, but the most difficult one to actualize. Sure you can take a workshop at the beginning of the year that encourages you to buy a planner, write down your schedule day by day, turn off Netflix and open that textbook instead. But to actually do it… that’s a whole other story.
We like to think that time is on our side, that we have more than enough time to get things done, that you can sacrifice one hour to watch “Mad Men” because you deserve it after such a long day. But time is against us all and only when we accept this can we combat its devious practice.
When I mentally and emotionally prepare myself for another school year, I am determined to learn from my erroneous summer scheduling. Halfway through my undergraduate career, that looming deadline of graduation is coming more and more into focus so I really can’t waste any more time. A hard pill to swallow indeed.
This year is my opportunity to blossom into an organizational queen, one who knows exactly what she’s doing when and handles all of her responsibilities with poise and grace. Hopefully.