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If you’re reading this, nine times out of ten you’re probably a student just like me – and that’s good, because this particular article is aimed at you and me. Like hundreds of thousands of students across the country, we’re privileged enough to be granted a humongous stretch of summer holiday from the middle of June up until the end of September. Nearly three months of zero responsibility might sound like bliss for some, but for others, its a long, empty period that you struggle to meaningfully fill.
If you have a summer job, then that can go some way to occupying your empty time; but for those who find themselves in a position where many of their days are spent idle, it can feel like you’re doing something wrong. Everyone else is out enjoying themselves and doing crazy stuff you couldn’t possibly imagine, whilst you’re stuck at home, watching TV or twiddling your thumbs.
I experienced this predominantly in the summer before I came to university. I’d just left my job for the past year and had nearly three whole months of freedom. It was pretty great at first. I got to lounge about doing nothing, like I had so desired when I was working in the heat every day, and not worry about occupying myself with anything meaningful or time-consuming. But the spell quickly wore off. With idleness comes a lot of time spent with your own thoughts, and when you’ve had mental health issues like depression and anxiety, these thoughts manifest themselves more urgently, and can really throw you off balance. I started to anticipate September by the time August rolled around, essentially wishing my summer holiday into oblivion and for university to begin. But with anticipation of university, came anticipation of everything that I believed university had to be, to be worth the wait. The idea of being a fresher soon became entangled with anxiety over messing up and not having the experience I needed and wanted to have.
I know I could have avoided these thoughts if I’d been more proactive with my time. I considered volunteering with one of my local charities but spent too long ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ about it, and by the time I came to apply I had less than a month, and it no longer seemed worthwhile. If you’re in a spot like me, there’s still plenty of things you can do to be productive without overwhelming yourself. Take up a new hobby, like gardening or walking, for example, and reclaim your time by filling it with worth. Message your friends and try to arrange a camping trip or hiking holiday – something just that little bit out of the ordinary. The less time you have to spend alone with your thoughts, the less powerful they become.
At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with being idle and just relaxing in the summer if that’s what makes you feel content. Not everyone needs to feel productive to attain the same sense of wellbeing as others, and there’s nothing wrong with taking these summer months at your own pace. It is called a holiday, after all, for that exact reason. We spend about nine months a year as a student working on assignments, reading enormous amounts of curricula and attending lectures and tutorials that sometimes are scheduled at ungodly times of day. No matter what anyone says about one course or another having an easier time, every one of us deserves a break when we get one, and there’s no better time than the summer. Even graduates shouldn’t feel guilty about taking some time out of the stress of the job hunt and getting some well-needed R&R on the beach.
Summers is ours, and as students, we should always feel the freedom to appreciate it, in whatever way we choose.