Don’t Relax, It’s Summer

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Don’t let the warm weather and infinite amount of time fool you: There’s more to summer than lying in bed all day. Before you lock me up for blasphemy, hear me out. These four months to do whatever you want with almost no restrictions is everything college students desire. It allows you to be productive on your own terms without the constant pressure from professors and parents to be the next Einstein and change the world. In order to take advantage of this free time, pause that Netflix queue and jump into activities you wouldn’t normally try. Whether it’s helping out at a festival or flipping burgers for some cash, get out the house and get your summer started.

Channel Your Inner Good Samaritan

Don’t groan, volunteering is good for the soul. It’s easy to help out others without the stress of missing a class or failing an exam. You don’t need to volunteer at a major organization or relocate to a foreign country to generate goodwill during your vacation. Start with your parents. They’ll initially be surprised at your caring nature, but when the jokes come to a halt, you can truly start being useful. The warm sun beating on your back as you push a 50-pound lawn mower over itchy grass may seem like getting out of bed was dumbest idea ever, but no one ever said doing the right thing is painless.

When you finish the yard work, spread the goodwill to the community. Whether it’s building a house for Habitat for Humanity, cleaning up an animal shelter or counseling students at summer camps, the opportunities in your town are endless. Websites like Volunteermatch.org or Createthegood.org allow you to specialize searches and find volunteer work based on areas of interest and location. Put on your cape because any of these options can turn a boring summer into one Clark Kent would happily approve.

Fill Your Wallet

Let’s be honest, you take summer jobs because you have nothing better to do and you’re broke…Why not stack the cash while you have the free time? Pay off your phone bill, save up for a study abroad trip or throw it in the air just because you can. This option trumps the mid-summer, “Help me, I’m bored,” lull any day. The best way to combat the, “I hate working,” and subsequent, “I hate my life,” mantra that will run through your head is to find a job that is both appealing and beneficial to your resume. Time management and problem-solving are just two of many skills you can add to your repertoire after working with customers at a local store.

Remember that not all jobs are created equal. Through my time juggling shakes, slushies, and customer complaints at Sonic Drive-In, I learned that working in fast food  is about as easy as climbing Mt. Everest. Summer jobs are like playing a game of chess: You have to know when to make the right move. Will the high-schoolers beat you to the good jobs? Is the job’s atmosphere more Scrubs or Grey’s Anatomy? Most importantly, is it air-conditioned?

Find Yourself 

During the school year, homework, exams and student orgs swing like a weight snapping loose and crushing you into a lifeless, walking pancake. I tend to lose all sense of true happiness due to the dark cloud of deadlines and responsibility hovering above me. In turn, I neglect the needed me-time of working out or reading a great book.

This summer, work on everything that falls to the wayside during semester. No, I don’t mean lay in bed and Netflix-it to the death (Actually…do plan a day of that), but start doing activities that will benefit you in the long run. Turn on Kanye’s Workout Plan and go for a jog around your neighborhood if you want to get in shape. Go to a library or bookstore and check out The Confidence Factor by Annie Ashdown or The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter ─ and How to Make the Most Out of them by Dr. Meg Jay, to work on mental health.Do that one thing that you keep putting on your to-do list every week but never really get around to completing. For me, it’s getting my license. I know, I know: How does a 20-year-old not have her license, yet? Well let’s just attribute it to a mixture of impeccable procrastination skills and a pinch of fear.

Whatever your ambition is, go achieve it. Summer may seem like the prime time to slack off (and it is), but tossing in a meaningful task or two won’t completely destroy your sleep schedule.

Erika is a senior Communication Studies major at the University of Michigan. She enjoys reading, photography and binge-watching A Different World on Netflix.

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