The Summertime Problem
What does it mean to be on summer vacation? Every year, it comes and goes. Bringing along a special type of excitement that could only be achieved through the changing of the seasons. It manifests itself to us in beach days, blockbuster films, and backyard barbeque cookouts. These and other things can be best summarized as the action of playing. From as early as childhood, we learn to love summer vacation as it offers us an annual break from the other routines of the year. Even if you still have a busy summer schedule, there’s still time to play if you’re willing to find it. Every year summer comes around, presenting us new opportunities to play and be happy.
However, if you were to ask me at any given moment what summer vacation is, I could not give you a straight answer. Even after having a summer vacation every year since I graduated kindergarten, I still don’t think I can surmise this vapid, magical time. Yet every year it comes around. It has this bizarre permanence to it. I know summer break will happen, yet I never notice it until it is already upon me. Maybe it's because the transition of seasons usually happens when I’m swamped with exams and papers in finals season, making it hard to realize how the world around me is changing, but I think there is something much bigger going on here. Something that has an effect on all of us.
Let me show you.
Do you have any summer plans? Maybe you have an annual family trip or a hobby that you’ve been saving until you got some free time. Now ask yourself: are you intentionally looking forward to summer, or are you passively anticipating its inevitable arrival? What are you doing to make this summer special?
That is what I like to call “The Summertime Problem.” The Summertime Problem is the lethargic acceptance of the world around you, even though it might be an exciting time in your life. It is a largely passive outlook on life, one that willingly submits you to the changes that are determined beforehand. It’s taking the phrase “Going with the flow” to an absurdly dedicated degree.
However, the reason that I call it The Summertime Problem is because of the season that it's named after. There is so much fun to be had in summer. Good weather. More free time. An overall change in individual temperament and demeanor. Yet despite that awesomeness that awaits, the liberty offered by summer is just as equally easy to squander. For most of us, summer is only three months: June to August, with a little overflow from May. Yeah, it may make up a third of the year, but it also goes by before you can even recognize it. Time becomes a fleeting factor in this dreamy season.
It’s a problem that I have faced time and time again. No matter what I do, I always feel that I left my summer experience unfulfilled. There’s always the event that I didn’t go to, the friend I could have hung out with more, or the routines I could have updated. No matter where you are in life, summertime is for everyone. Yet for each of us, we can easily lose control of our summer. We fall into our long followed routines, lose track of the new things that we can achieve, and ultimately remain unfulfilled.
So, that begs the question: How do we make the most out of summer? We can do so much to make our summers special, but how do we achieve it? Now, I’m not going to drag you along on
some needlessly elaborate scientific study on our psychological inactiveness during the changes in seasons. But I think it is worth talking about what we can do to make all of our summers more fulfilling, especially on a personal level. Without further ado, here are some tips on how to overcome the sour Summertime Problem.
The Power of the Backlog
Ever since I started going to university, I’ve made this tradition for myself. Kind of like an intimate end-of-semester celebration. During the school year, I drip-feed new video games and books into what I call a “backlog.” I find new things I haven’t experienced yet, such as the critically acclaimed RPG Disco Elysium and the 12th volume of the Las Vegas Writes anthology, Love in the Dunes. Usually, when I stumble upon something new, I partake in it for a little bit. Then, I set it to the side so that I can focus on my work and university assignments. I may come back to my backlog at various times in the school year, but I only for a little bit each time. That way, I have both a reward at the end of the semester, as well as reduced distractions while I am working.
Once I’ve gathered a couple of things that interest me, I save them until I have completed everything for the spring semester. As the final grades are entered into the gradebook, I begin to dive back into all the things I have been saving. Usually, I like to start a new game on the first night of summer break, with the ultimate goal of completing it before the fall semester takes away my free time. I’ve just begun playing Shin Megami Tensei IV on my 3DS, which I was lucky enough to pick up in a sale a couple of weeks ago. While playing that, I also plan to finish reading the memoir of the famous game developer, Sid Meier. The list goes on and on with things I haven’t gotten a chance to fully enjoy yet.
Whether we realize it or not, we all have a backlog that we can go back into. It could be books, video games, movies, and any other hobby that we haven’t had in a while. We can all admit that the rest of the year can be too busy. Now that summer is upon us, make sure you take the time to find the things that you have around you but haven’t gotten the chance to enjoy yet.
Invest in Yourself
Summer is not only good for relaxing, but also for self-improvement. Yes, the heat may render you inactive and the newfound benefit of extra free time may render you unenthused. But, remember that it is up to you to make your summer fulfilling. One surefire way of doing so is by planning and going out to regularly exercise.
This is one piece of advice that I am particularly fond of. During this past semester, I had been going to the gym with a friend fairly regularly. Though, my usage of “fairly” is certainly debatable, as I had to miss some workout sessions due to extraneous circumstances, such as big school projects. Again, this is a situation I am sure many of us have faced.
Now that I have the benefit of being on summer vacation, I plan to keep a more regular workout schedule. It won’t be as easy as I hope, given the crushing Nevada heat and changes in my work hours. However, with enough honest motivation and genuine effort, I think I can do it. The same goes for you too. If you want to improve yourself, you can do with the power that exists within. It doesn’t even have to be exercise. If there is some kind of skill or talent you have always wanted to pursue, summertime is your chance to do so. All you need is assurance in yourself, your abilities, and the desire to grow. With some self-confidence, you can overcome any discouragement to begin being a better version of yourself.
Cherish the Small Things
It may sound cliche to appreciate the small things in your life. I’m sure there are hundreds upon thousands of other blogs out there that preach the same value. Nonetheless, it is always important to remember it throughout these long, hot days. Each day we are given these tiny moments, some we will remember forever, others for only a few moments after they pass.
We may not realize the value in them immediately, but they can offer us a burst of good feelings that can brighten up any day. Such as joy, excitement, or peace. For me, this comes in the form of watching TV with my mom and dad. Every week, we make time to watch at least one episode from one of the shows that they like, such as Game of Thrones or Halo. They might not be my favorite things to watch, but the real pleasure comes from spending time with my family. It allows us to bond, even though we are just sitting together, watching and talking about a show. It’s not a revelatory experience, but it means something to me and those in my life.
So this summer, take the time to find the small things in your life, and make the most of them. It could be spending a few moments of your time with someone. Going out of your way to experience something new. Even stopping in your busy day, and appreciate the world around you.
With these three tips, you should be more than capable of overcoming the Summertime Problem. But remember, the ultimate key does not lie in summer itself, but rather in you. It’s you that is responsible for making your summer fulfilling. So, go out there, have some fun, and make summer yours!
About the Author
Leonard Brattoli is a sophomore Honors student majoring in English. He offers to the Foundation his writing skills as one of its newest Newsletter and Blog Writers. His background is varied, including experience in creative writing, academic papers, review work, and collaboration.