The word “summer” is best associated, at least to us students, with summer vacation. Yes, summer does imply a certain time period (June to August, usually), but I would say that in the label “summer vacation” the word means something entirely different. Buried under four other definitions of the word “summer” lies this gem; “5. The period of finest development, perfection, or beauty previous to any decline.” With the exception of the “previous to any decline” part, I would say that summer vacation could be defined by this; a period of growth, rather than “[the third definition] A period of hot, usually sunny weather.” And for anyone who cares, I’m using dictionary.com. (Remember, folks, plagiarism is plagiarism with or without intent!)
I’m going to pull a Dark Knight Rises right now and allow an inexplicable, long gap in the allegedly linear story that is this blog. In other words, I was going to continue by writing about the last few weeks of school, but now it’s so far from my mind (and probably your interest) I figured I’ll just skip forward and include some vague references and random stories from this gap.
I arrived in Minnesota in mid-May after a long, tiring finals week and (as per unwelcomed tradition) an all-nighter, packing my increasingly volatile life into boxes. It’d been almost seven months since I was home (my “winter” vacation was spent in the desert of northern India) so when I woke up the next morning in my old bed with a full kitchen beckoning me, I was disoriented. Beyond that, though, I felt agitated.
You see, last summer I had an incredible internship with Minnesota Public Radio, doing work that I adored for an organization that I had always loved and admired. But this year when March, then April, then May came around, I had no such plans for my summer. The few organizations that I’d applied to had passed on me and I was without a summer plan. Waking up on that first morning back, I had my first whiff of internship-unemployment. And boy howdy, it was bleak.
For some amount of time that I lost track of I just sat around, read, watched the West Wing, saw friends from home, and slept in until noon. At some point I pulled out my ol’ bike and started biking into downtown St. Paul, too. A pleasant enough life (and a very traditional “summer” vacation), but not how I’m used to—or comfortable with—spending my time.
But then my savior descended from heaven, and his name was Orville.
Preface; in high school I was super super involved in this YMCA program called Minnesota Youth In Government, which ran the Model UN, Model State Assembly, etc. I was a student leader in all the conferences, on the State Board, attended the national conference, etc. You get the jist. It’s a great program with people that I know very well and hold very dear.
So one evening I get a call from Orville, the State Director of said program, who mentions “I’ve got some money lying around. Want an internship?”
Why, yes. Yes, Orville, I would like an internship.
“Great. Come in on Monday and we’ll get started.”
And just like that, my summer had structure. I had a place to be and, thus, had to wake up at a reasonable time, and now I get to work for an organization that I’m extremely passionate about. Granted, it doesn’t have the same name recognition on a resume as MPR, but still. Gaining valuable skills, being in a new(ish) office, and -best of all-it isn’t nothing.
School—at least a liberal arts school—is about knowledge and skill: it’s about studying under people who (usually) know much more than you, it’s about joining organizations and expanding the framework of the window through which you see the world, it’s about finding which study habits work for you through trial and error, it’s about making friends, and, most of all, it’s about learning to drink coffee.
But summer is almost the opposite. It’s the time when students are released into the wild, wild real world and where students gain experience rather than knowledge. Summer is about relaxation, sure, but it’s about expanding the parts of your mind that you don’t have the time or ability to during the school year.
Whether it’s watching 32 discs of the West Wing in two months, trying that special recipe you found online, trying that hair style you’ve always liked on other people (fun fact: Ian Fox does not very good with the side of his head shaved), these things all expand one’s self, mentally, physically, emotionally, whatever.
What matters in the job market and what matters in life is not that awesome interdisciplinary major that you chose because it gave you “analytical skillz” or the internship that you had that one time at that one place, but, rather, who you are as a person and as a potential employee. No internship shapes a person’s skillset, no membership card defines a person’s interest, and no guitar chord makes a person interesting.
You become who you are by the experiences that you have; how you elect to spend your free time and how you push yourself in whatever way you do.
To me, summer is a period of free, unstructured growth, coupled with the “vacation” part. It’s a beautiful time where you can develop and perfect whatever you want, broadening your abilities, your friendships, and, yes, even your ability to cope with the never ending struggle of having nothing to do.