As Told by Someone in the Trenches.
August 22nd. It’s like the due date of a long term project-- 18 years and 236 days long, to be exact-- that has simply snuck up without warning. As the mess of square caps and stray tassels came crashing to the ground on graduation day, my sense of regularity and habit vanished, too.
So, where does that leave me currently? Well, if I may be candid, I initially considered myself to be in a state of personal and intellectual purgatory; stuck, but not crippled, in the threshold between the utterly familiar past and an uncharted frontier ahead. Instead of accepting this reality as fate, however, I thought it better to seize the day (or days, rather) and use this summer to my advantage. Specifically, I conjured up a select list of activities that might help me not only survive, but even thrive, in such an uncertain climate:
Survival Tip 1: Read
I personally love the act of reading-- the rhythm of turning one page after the next, the feeling of getting lost in someone else’s narrative when it is all too easy to be perpetually wrapped up in our own, and the surprise of looking at the clock wondering where all of those hours went. Well, truth be told, it isn’t always this way. Naturally, I only love reading books that I love. In fact, I think there is nothing worse than forcing myself through a piece of literature that simply doesn’t stir me. Call it sadistic if you will, but this summer I set out to do just that: read books I didn’t suspect I would love. I wanted the challenge. Instead of flying through one of my favorite pieces of fiction, I forced upon myself a selection decidedly less my style. The result? I felt accomplished upon reaching the novel’s conclusion and intellectually stimulated from the morally charged dialogue presented by the author. And, after an admittedly laidback end to my senior year, these were two things I desperately needed.
Survival Tip 2: Get a job
While I certainly still feel like a child in some ways, and I suspect I still will for some time (hopefully forever), I recognize the fact that I am slowly exiting the period of my youth and entering a period of heightened responsibility and freedom (also known as adulthood). As I understand it, this whole “adult” concept also corresponds with a heightened sense of accountability and productivity within a community. Generally speaking, I try to approach situations logically and getting a job seemed to be the most rational way to cultivate these qualities. Maintaining such a position would require me to be punctual in my arrival, communicative with my employers and colleagues, and productive for the duration of my allotted hours-- thus restoring a sense of purpose to my floundering “second semester senior” and post-graduate self. Not to mention, I would be making my own earnings and exploring my interests (and potentially disinterests, as well)-- things I suspect would be very useful to a freshly-minted college student. High school is over. Time to dive into the real world.
Survival Tip 3: Take up a new hobby
Similar to my experiments in reading and working, I felt as though my mind could use another stretch, but perhaps a more enjoyable one at that. Fumbling my way through the development of a new hobby seemed like a good exercise in learning (both about the world and about myself) for my dormant brain. So, considering the fact that I truly enjoy eating, I decided I should attempt the reciprocal action: cooking. As with many other processes, my tactics involved a lot of trial and error. I’ve failed (the smell of burnt fish pervading the house is not pleasant), I’ve succeeded (my discerning mother was surprisingly delighted at one of my intricate meals), and I’ve developed a new appreciation for short-order cooks and Michelin-starred chefs alike. Whether the skill of interest be knitting, tennis, or driving a manual car, I thoroughly suggest you try your hand at it… you just might discover something along the way.
Survival Tip 4: Spend time with family
Frankly, no pre-college to do list would be complete without the directive to spend time with loved ones. That being said, I’ve made it my mission not to just check off this proverbial box, but to really relish each moment. While perhaps this suggestion comes across as dogmatic or cliché, I always try to remind myself that you never really know what you have until it’s gone.
While judgement day of my experiment won’t arrive at least until the end of August when I board that emotionally-charged flight to Raleigh-Durham. Consider this my midterm report. No, I am not deluded enough to believe that I am completely ready for college, adulthood, or whatever may come next, but I do think I am prepared to take the first steps… and believing you’re ready is half the battle, right? So, do yourself the favor of remembering to “get ready, get set” before you reach “go.” Take it from someone in the trenches.