While summers can seem like carbon copies, with their annual family vacations and summertime jobs, there is something about the summer of one’s freshman year of college that makes it particularly special and distinguishable from the rest. These three months represent the much deserved freedom from over a decade of elementary and secondary education, the last chance to do whatever one desires before embarking on yet another academic journey. After graduating from high school in June, I knew right from the beginning that I wanted to make these precious few months as meaningful as possible without overdoing it — a difficult feat for someone who always wants to do it all. Now that August has rolled around, I can safely say that my summer has been more or less exactly that.
So what have I been up to for the past two months? On most days you can find me at the town pool lifeguarding and teaching American Red Cross swim lessons — activities that have been the main components of my summers for the past three years. Juggling those two already take up most weekdays and weekends and as much as I don’t like to admit it, they prevent me from treasuring my time off before going back to school.
Then why do I even bother when I could spend my limited free time doing other "fun" things? The reality is that like most college bound teenagers, I must work in order to save enough money for the school year. Although it can be extremely frustrating to be stuck at the workplace while friends are going on beach trips and dancing the night away at concerts, a summer job is only a miserable experience if you make it one. While I’m melting in a lifeguard chair in ninety degree weather or calming a screaming toddler during a swim lesson, I always tell myself that my job gives me more than just the much needed cash. My job teaches me indispensable values such as patience, humility and compassion. Whether you’re stuck at the pool like me or spend your days behind a retail counter, jobs teach you the values of professionalism and maturity — characteristics that embody a true college student.
Of course, there are days when I’m not at the pool. It’s tempting to use this free time to go out and attend as many parties, concerts and day trips as possible, but I’d end up quickly exhausting myself if I do. I’ve always believed that even the simplest activities are just as rewarding. For one, this summer I have tried to read and write more often — lifelong passions of mine that have been pushed aside due to previous summers of internships, work and college visits. As of right now, I’ve read ten books, completed one twelve page short story and wrote five articles for Fresh U. These solitary hobbies have helped me unwind after long days at the pool and have sharpened my analytical and writing abilities for the numerous English courses I plan to take in college.
If I’m not curled up on the couch with a book or my laptop, I’m out college shopping with my family. While hopping from store to store to find pillows, comforters, sheets, chairs and lamps is a mere errand for some, to me it's an excellent opportunity to spend time with my family when weeklong getaways to exotic locations are not feasible because of hectic schedules. Working together as a team to buy the perfect additions to my room while staying in budget, my family and I have had arguments, made compromises and enjoyed a few laughs. Coupled with a family trip to Maine later this month, together, these bonding experiences will be memories that I will cherish going into my freshman year of college.
Although my summer hasn’t been the most exhilarating or the most noteworthy in comparison to others’, I have found that my summer experience has greatly amplified when I see the joys in the things I am able to accomplish, no matter how small. Stepping onto campus later this month, I will leave summer behind feeling satisfied and refreshed, ready to enter the next chapter of my life.
Lead Image Credit: Mihail Ribkin via Unsplash