Quite some time has passed since I have been a student, yet the anticipation of summer still gives me excitement like it did when I was a kid. Summer was never just about having extra time to play for me (although this is important for children as well). The time away from the norm was my chance to explore more of my own interests and reflect on what I liked and disliked from the previous school year.
Now as an adult summer does not mean unlimited free time. Still, I do take the overall casualness of season as a chance to have an internal retreat. We can never forget the importance of exposing ourselves to new things and analyzing what we see without outside influence.
First, it is important we take a moment just to be thankful for where we are. No matter how frustrated you might be in the moment you are blessed just to have the capacity to try and march on another day. Having a sense of gratefulness keeps us from making decisions out of desperation. Settling will not take you where you want to be, but changing your strategy will.
From there, you need to be honest with yourself about what it is you really want. So many of people feel unfulfilled because they struggle to express where their true ambitions lie. Do not feel reserved or embarrassed about being your authentic self. And if you do not yet have the answers to get to where you want to be, that’s fine too. If we had all of the answers, where would faith come in? If we had all of the answers, we could not grow during the journey. Learn to find joy in the process because destination-based happiness (graduating from college, owning a home, etc.) is fleeting. Learn to fall in love with the process of becoming who and what you want to be. Life is too precious to merely define it by moments that can be spaced out by months or even years.
Now that you have done some self-observation, strive to gain some outside knowledge. None of us should possess such hubris that we fail to understand how important it is to study the work and sacrifices of those that came before us. Often times, we will discover that the difficulties we have someone else has already struggled with and possibly provided a solution to. More times than not, learning how people persevere can be a source of encouragement as we face difficulties along the way.
Be sure to closely observe the current times around you as well. Information is readily available to us, but we must take the time to decide what we believe for ourselves. We have to have some sort of anchor of our own before we can be prepared for new opportunities. Do not let being a novice or newcomer in a field allow you to be taken advantage of because you have not taken the time to establish your own tenets. Humility is key, but never fall into the trap of thinking that your own voice is not relevant.
Summer is such a prime opportunity for self-development because it is a fun time of the year. We are supposed to enjoy growing. Sometimes change brings on the heat, but there is beauty in being exposed as our true selves. Take the summer to blossom and grow and return in a new form with childlike joy.
Photo Credit: Model Gail O’Neill in Elle’s June 1987 issue; photographed by Marc Hispard