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Months off give us time to reflect and evaluate priorities

Photo by Tim Pierce

SUMMER VACATION IS usually characterized as a time of carefree cottage days and long patio nights. Hollywood cranks out mindless thrills like Iron Man 3, The Wolverine, and Man of Steel, and summer songs like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” grace just about every TV, radio station, and iPod in the country. But what does it all really mean for the average student?

I asked my friends and family this very question. Some of them could hardly call it a vacation, what with a full-time job and part-time classes. Others relayed stories of backpacking and travelling around the world.  Some were sad to see the summer end, while others couldn’t wait to “get back into the swing of things.”

Finding no definitive answer for the question, I decided to reflect on my own summer.

As I scrolled through my news feed and scanned the thousands of pictures entitled “Summer 2013” on Facebook, I took a moment to soak in every last drop of my final summer as an undergraduate. I read status updates bidding farewell to hometowns and welcoming another school year, and I found myself reflecting not so much on the events of the summer but on the feelings and experiences that came with it.

You see, to me the summer represents a time of soul searching. Finally, the books are closed and the laptops shut off. There are no more essays to write, no more lectures to sit through, and no more incessant voices in your head whispering, “You should be studying.”

I am no longer a full-time student. This summer, I set my top priority as something other than school, and because of that it was the best I’ve had yet.

I documented, appreciated, and soaked in as much of life as I could. This summer my top priority was awareness. I vlogged, wrote in journals, and reflected as much as possible. I wanted this summer to be more than pictures of parties, family events, and laughs. I wanted to learn more about myself, and do all of the little things I didn’t have time to do with a full course load—I wanted to live in the present moment.

As a result, I had the time of my life this summer. I learned loads about myself and those around me. I climbed a few mountains, met a lot of new people on the way, and had a blast doing it. But as I look back at my journey these past four months, I realize that to me, summer vacation means so much more than a break— it’s time to slow down, pay attention, and really live.

My summer vacation made me realize that I needed to live like that all the time. Taking time to reflect, stay in the moment, and try new things are principles that I want to always live by—regardless of my workload and stress levels.

So, I leave you with the same question that has done so much for me: What does summer vacation mean to you?