McCarthy: Our laziest season is one of the best for self-reflection

Logging another summer, I take a moment to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned.

Kate McCarthy

There’s a sector of the population that does not, in fact, pine for summer. It may be a small group of diehards, but they are out there. During elementary and middle school, I dove headlong from school into various summer programs — from one routine to another, some of us can’t do without structure and schedule. As this summer begins to see its end peaking on the horizon, I’d like to offer up some cumulative thoughts — what I learned this summer, if you will.

First, patience. I sped from Minneapolis to Chicago as soon as I was offered an internship, and was eager to build a life immediately. I wanted to find a real paying job, I wanted to dig into this internship immediately and I wanted to entrench myself in the scenes of Chicago I desired to be a part of.

These things came in time, but in the interim, it was so hard to see my way through to the other side. Summer makes you acutely aware both of how long and how short our time is. The three months fly by in an instant, but by the end of them you also see just how absurdly small an amount of time that is to do everything.

This leads to my next stand out lesson: summer openness. Maybe your summer will not look like you think it will. Maybe you’ll be busy with more, or relaxing with less. Maybe one weekend you’ll hardly be at home, and another weekend you’ll be curled up in the same chair with books or projects for hours. Moment to moment, my summer mood was constantly changing. Elated then contemplative, goofy then nostalgic.

Summer feels like everything is breathing a little bit more, expanding, airing out — like someone has opened a bottle of wine to let it sit on the counter for a while, or the top button on a nice pair of pants has been gratefully released. This gives you more room to reflect and think, and I say let it all happen. Be open to whatever this time brings you.

One layer added to my summer was long distance from everyone else in my life. That meant a lot of longing to be in on things that I simply couldn’t be.

Another lesson of mine: independence and letting things go. I was eager to know every little thing, how everyone’s doing, who’s hanging out with whom, what’s going on and, oh yeah, are you all still my friends? Your friends still love you; they’re just going about business as usual, while you do the same. Enjoy the time away, be very quiet and thoughtful for days on end, or chat up anyone who will listen around the office or in improv class. As the poet Rupi Kaur writes, “Loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself.” So lean in and be your own best friend for a while.

The unexpected thing about being only mild about summer is that no matter how it goes, I’m still begging for it to stretch just a little longer. The hazy days and languid nights are intoxicating in that way. As the weeks inch towards September, I will be wracking my mind for things I have not done yet, parts of my summer I still need to acquire. I will be hoping I did it all right, so that deep amid winter finals I won’t be left wondering if there was more I could have done to enjoy this time. I will, and so should you — simply enjoy.