I missed my chance to travel to the Big Apple for a flashy editorial internship at the New York Times, and my passport still remains expired without a single visa stamp. While I watched all my friends and classmates gear up for a summer of networking at some swanky incorporated marketing company or a summer backpacking in Europe, I begrudgingly packed my beaten black suitcase for the bus ride home from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Though I may be working on my tan this summer, I’m certainly doing more work than actual tanning. I hopped off the bus from campus and into my too-tight lifeguarding swimsuit that I swear had shrunk since the last time I wore it the previous summer. Yes, I returned to shack up with the ‘rents and work my old hometown lifeguarding job. Although my bosses and co-workers are great, I admit I feel a tug of disappointment in my chest for not taking the opportunity to try my hand at something new rather than return to the house I lived in for 18-plus years.
When I first left for college, I left with the intention of never coming back to my hometown—literally never. As school rolled around, I thought of everything I could do to keep myself busy over the summer, like staying in Madison and taking summer courses or even getting a job at one of the downtown coffee shops. When fall semester started and the application deadlines for summer internships started showing up with impending due dates, I figured I’d be okay if I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do yet. I mean, summer was months away. I had plenty of time, right?
Wrong. Fall soon turned to winter and winter to spring, and, while I kept denying it, I probably missed some worthwhile experiences to keep myself occupied in the summer besides mooching off my parents while I worked. During the fall, I used whatever free time I had to research local and out-of-state internships, but my application process remained hindered because I was still undecided about my major. Because I wasn’t set on pursuing journalism yet, I was unsure whom I should talk to about applying for a position at a fancy publication. I felt like I missed out on opportunities, but also on a summer where I could have advanced my career. As finals weeks approached, I forced myself to accept the reality of returning home as soon as I dotted the final “I” on my climate test.
After a week or two of moping around home depressed about the fate of my summer and stalking my friends’ Instagram pictures of them traveling to France to study abroad or heading to a lake at the greater peninsula of Michigan, I made myself accept my summer of being a homebody. Sure, summer wasn’t going to be all sunshine and rainbows, considering I was back underneath my parent’s thumb. My mother still may use Sprint Family Locator to make sure I’m “really” out with friends and my dad calls me embarrassing nicknames, but I finally realized my summer staycation is not a hellish predicament after all.
For three months, I get a chance to be with my family and hang out with them instead of only seeing them once or twice a semester. Though I may be sentenced to the occasional chore or two when I’m not working, I enjoy the sweet reward of my mother’s cooking. Nothing beats eating real meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner instead of the typical microwave specials I scarf on the go at college. It’s amazing how much better grilled steak tastes than four-minute-made steak.
Did I mention I’m saving money too? I don’t have to pay for groceries and once in a while my mom will take me shopping for clothes and books I need for school (holla!). Not to mention, I spend all my time working as a lifeguard and saving up big bucks for the future so that when I land an internship in New York or study abroad in London, I’ll have some extra cash to spend.
While I may not have the picture-perfect summer on my Instagram or be sharing my adventures of traveling the world on Facebook, I get to spend the summer making a decent amount of time with my family and save a great chunk of change. I’m looking at the bright side. This is the last summer and probably the last time ever I’ll be living at home–might as well enjoy the free laundry service, food and the company of my friends and family. It sure feels nice to know I’m not quite so stuck at home after all.