This post originally appeared as a column in The Diamondback
It’s summer, did ya hear? Everyone’s down by the pool. Or chilling at the beach, or going on hikes or finding a shady spot to read. Everyone’s got a job or internship, but somehow we take it less seriously in the heat than during the “real” part of the year. This might be the only time of the year when we actually have free time.
There is a big difference between urgency and importance — one we often confuse in the hustle and bustle between September and May. When we face deadlines, everything feels like a priority, because it all has to be done immediately. These things are urgent, but they are not necessarily important.
Missing the deadline on a paper or inadequately preparing for a test, though immediately painful to your course grade, are not important. Deciding on a major and a career, becoming passionate about a subject or a cause (or lots of them), and building lasting relationships with people and organizations are things that matter, in a looking-back-at-your-life way.
In the summer, your groups and clubs aren’t meeting. If you have classes, it’s usually only one at a time. You have space to breathe, to relax. Those urgent-but-not-important responsibilities mostly vanish. You have time to work on the important-but-not-urgent things, such as relationships, values and identity.
So, who are you?People change. The more conscious we are of who we are and how we are changing, the more we can control the process.
Of course, there are obstacles. In the summertime, it’s mostly the attractive distractions we’ve looked forward to during the school year. For some people, thinking about the future invites massive anxiety or unpleasant feelings, and others might not know enough about the world or their own interests to make any concrete plans.
Taking time to think deeply and productively about yourself and your future is good. How do you like to spend your time? What sorts of people help you feel productive and positive and happy about yourself? What kind of life do you want to live?There are all kinds of tools to aid introspection. Reading, walking, journaling, drawing, cooking, even cheesy personality tests — everyone finds his or her own tools to effectively frame reflection.
You don’t need to buy into my platitudes, but I’d encourage you not to listen to those who tell you not to think or cave to your own inclinations to shut down mental activity for a few months. Honestly, there could be a real difference in your life experience from taking an hour out of the six you were going to spend on Netflix to consider who you are. Becoming yourself is fun.
So amid all the swimming and tanning and partying you absolutely ought to do this summer, make some time to think about the things that are important yet never urgent. Let your zoned-out mind wander around the questions without deadlines, questions about values and identity. No one is going to grade you for the person you become or force you to be better than you are.
September through May, our vision is clouded by work and stress — let’s put on our July introspectacles and figure us out.