Temperatures start to heat up outside. Teachers remind you of final exams. Refrains of, “I can’t believe we only have X more weeks!” echo on campus. Clubs are hosting their final banquets and events. Thoughts and conversations about “next year” trickle in slowly. Ever since grade school, the anticipation of summer — so close that you can practically taste it — has felt familiar. Even when I was younger and really enjoyed school, the freedom of summer felt euphoric. Otter pops, summer camps and warm nights with the windows open called my name.
My excitement for summer probably hit an all-time high in high school, and significantly dropped last year. I didn’t particularly want my freshman year to end. However, last summer ended up being one of the best I can remember. Most of my friends from high school were home and we frequented the same places we had frequented in high school, talking about what had changed in the last year and revelling in what hadn’t. It was a perfect representation of where I was: a freshman still figuring things out, not yet ready to be fully released into the world. I was doing two internships at home and exploring new opportunities and experiences. I was working in a professional environment, but at the end of the day, I could return to a nice home-cooked meal from my mom. I got to consider all the things that changed over the course of my first year of college — ambitions, activities, friends — while exploring my hometown in unexpected ways.
Last summer was likely the last time that all of my friends would be home together. We recognized that fact and cherished the time we had together. This summer, it’s time for something new. I’ll be moving to an entirely new city, trying new things and living on my own. Most people would say, “What’s the big deal? You do it already nine months of the year.” Most of the time, I agree that summer away from home is just an extension of college. But other times, something about the sanctity of summer and the innocence that accompanies it makes this bittersweet. I only have two more summers until summer is nothing more than a seasonal change, no longer a time of exploration, freedom and reflection that it has come to mean for me.
Of course, at least for the last several years, summer has been tied to some of the academic responsibilities of the school year including working and test preparation. But in reality, summer is not about an actual lack of work, it’s about the illusion of less work and the opportunity to learn in different ways. It’s about stepping outside of a classroom, taking more risks and taking the time to think about what the next year may bring. For many of us, after college, our lives will no longer be defined by academic years, but rather, fiscal quarters. We won’t get a break from reality for three months or be offered a defined set of time dedicated to expanding our horizons in whatever way we might choose.
I’ve resolved that I’m going to try and make my next few summers something worth remembering. I’m going to set goals that are harder to accomplish during the school year. I’m going to try things that I wouldn’t usually try. I’m going to embrace the change that this summer is inevitably going to bring and try and find my path and what I ultimately want to do. There are only a few more years where I can use this socially constructed period of time that is summer vacation to break away from reality.
Nayanika Kapoor is a sophomore majoring in journalism and political economy. Her column, “In-Transit,” runs every other Friday.