On summer

Not many people would argue with the fact that there’s something magical about summertime. Especially as high school students, the contrast between the freedom of summer and the hyper-structured school year can be striking.

In the summer, we are our own bosses—at least more so than during the school year. Somehow, this gives added value to whatever I do, even if that is just reading, sleeping, and binge-watching TV shows.

The openness of summer also means that we end up spending it in very different ways from our peers and from ourselves during the school year. For me, it’s usually a mix of my biggest adventures and my most lazy days.

There’s something great about challenging yourself during the summer. That might mean leaving your family for weeks or months at a time, reading or writing more than you’re used to, doing hardcore exercise regularly, or pretty much anything else. The magic of any of these things lies in the fact that you consciously decided exactly how you want to spend your time. That’s what gives meaning to anything you do in the summer. You set goals for yourself—goals which you believe are important and beneficial and worth your while—and have the time and energy to execute them. During the rest of the year, school work leaves me so drained I seldom have time to set goals like that, let alone execute them.

graphic: Nina Zhong

graphic by Nina Zhong

 Last summer, I left the day after school ended for 15 days of backcountry backpacking in the West. The hiking was difficult and sometimes scary, the social scene had its ups and downs, and the time in nature was more intense than any other I’ve had. As amazing as it was, by the end of it, I was very ready to be reintegrated into civilization. I also felt that the novelty and difficulty of this experience justified whatever I did (or didn’t do) for the rest of the summer.

A little while after that, I found myself lying in bed seasick and feverish on a boat along the coast of Norway. I went outside when I was well enough, but mainly just lay in bed eating oranges and cookies while taking in the views and reading a lot of books. Reading for fun is something I always wish I had more time for during the school year. It makes me happy. So, to have a week of just that was blissful, although I was probably pretty bad company.

As the end of summer neared and I arrived home, I saw the reality of the fact that I would soon lose the control I’d had over my own time. In a kind of preemptive state of rebellion, I took to the couch. I spent close to a solid week binge-watching The Office. My daily record was fourteen episodes. I took breaks to sleep, use the bathroom, and open the door for my friends when they decided to join my TV fest. It was wonderful.

The beauty of the ideal summer, although you often realize that you didn’t do half the things you meant to, is that it is different for everyone. It can involve anything you want it to involve. The season acts as a time of balance—balance within the sunny summer itself, plus long-term balance with the rest of the year.

Summer is a time when we can be reminded of how big the world is, and how much more there is to life than we can ever realize during late nights and early mornings inundated by petty stresses.

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