I am a go go go go go go go person. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am always moving at 100 miles per hour, and I always give whatever I am doing 100% of myself. I have never understood the people who can just sit and relax, knowing that there is work to be done. If something needs done, I do it. And I do it to the best of my ability. This is a great quality to have when you are tackling a nineteen-hour college credit load, plus working eighteen hours a week. This is a great quality to have when you are working towards scholarships, grants, and transfer schools. This is a great quality to have when you are battling a chronic illness while completing the previously listed things.
But now, I’m on summer break. I graduated with my Associates Degree in Science and Arts last Friday, and now I have no schoolwork to do, no job, and everything for my transfer school is pretty well set. I don’t have anything to work towards or anybody to work for. This is the first summer in my life that I haven’t had schoolwork to do, extracurricular actives to take part in, or projects to complete. And honestly, I feel like I’m rusting…and its day two of summer break. It’s gonna be a long summer. The majority of my friends are sleeping in, binging Netflix, or doing whatever they don’t have time for during the school year. They seem to be perfectly okay with having all of this free time, but I’m not. Why is that?
That question has been circling in my head all day as I read, watch some Gilmore Girls, and stare at the refrigerator in hopes that something appetizing will magically appear (no luck yet, but I’ll keep you posted). Why does free time make me feel more anxious, unorganized, and unhappy than relaxed? How am I going to survive an entire summer of this? What is wrong with me?
I’ve been trying to answer these questions all day, and I think I have discovered a possible answer: I have never learned to be still.
Growing up, I was never allowed to say that I was bored. If I uttered those fateful words, I would immediately be handed a rake, a shovel, a Swiffer duster, or a basket of laundry. That’s all well and good, I am thankful for the lessons that little practice taught me. As I continued to grow, I became involved with Bible Quizzing, accelerated school materials, volunteer work, babysitting, you name it; I probably did it. I’ve had a planner since I was twelve years old, and I have always been kept busy. But now, as I am in that weird valley of life where I’m not quite an adult but I’m not still a teenager, I don’t really have anything specific vying for my attention. For the first time in my life, I am left with an empty planner. As I sit on the edge of my bed on a Sunday afternoon, I am still. I look at my backpack, lying void of textbooks, hastily scrawled notes, and half-eaten granola bars. I look at my closet, bursting with outfits that have no place to be worn. I look at my graduation cap, stoles, medals, and tassels sitting on my shelf. And you know what? I don’t feel the relief, pride, or happiness I had prepared myself for.
I feel empty.
I won’t delve into these post-graduation feelings (not in this post at least), but I will say this is not a nice sensation. For the past two years, my life has been molded around tests, teachers, papers, and responsibilities. Now, all that is gone. I know those feelings will return as of August, but that’s months away. For the first time, I am facing three months of emptiness. What a weird feeling. I hate it.
And that’s when the moment of clarity ensues (Cue angels singing the halleluiah chorus)
The problem here isn’t with my schedule; it isn’t with my lack of things to do; the problem is with my mindset. The problem is me. (Wow, that hurts to admit). I have been looking at this summer as an empty period of time. A time void of purpose, meaning, and responsibility. But what a blessing that is! I have the entire summer to devote to something. I just haven’t figured out what that “something” is yet. Maybe I will write a book. Maybe I will memorize the dictionary. Maybe I will finally drag myself through Paradise Lost or Beowulf. Maybe I will learn to be still. Maybe I will finally be able to slow down, smell the roses, be resent in every moment, and not worry about what I have to do next.
Instead regarding this summer as “empty,” I should regard it as “waiting to be filled.”
This is my last summer at home, I can’t afford to spend my days moping around that I’m bored, my time left here is too precious. This is my last summer before I am on my own. What an amazing time to cultivate my essential self, work on developing my character, and work on fostering purposeful relationships.
What am I going to do this summer? I have no idea. But whatever I do, I will do it with my entire heart. I will be present in every moment. I will cherish the little things. I will fearlessly live my life. I will fill my summer with that special “something.” From this point forward, I will stop looking at my days as empty; instead, I will look for intentional ways to fill them. I will fill them with books, with friends, with coffee, with mini-adventures, and with love. And you know what? I bet that the days will fly by and before I know it, I will be packing my bags for the greatest adventure of my life.
Summer break? Let’s do this.