My son recently got a job. His first job … ever. He was not really looking for a job; he was quite content to pass his summer in idle pursuits, like computer games, hanging out with friends, or creating a permanent indent in the couch. But when a wonderful opportunity landed in his lap, he changed his mind and became genuinely interested—the gobs of cash he would make with a full-time position over the entire summer was not lost to him. He went to the interview, landed the position, and started the next day. As we were traveling home from the interview, he was elated and excited until I mentioned he couldn’t go to Canada’s Wonderland for his brother’s year end band trip (they always invite siblings to join the trip—since it’s the parents that do all the driving.)
I watched this news sink in, and then sink in further still, and his mood became somber, disappointment written on his handsome face. This was not a fleeting ‘ah bummer’ sort of mood, it was a deep disappointment—a lament for the loss of his summer. Most would say he had been lucky. At nineteen, we had never pushed him into getting a job. We told him, his school was his career, and as long as he applied himself and succeeded, we would give him the jolts of cash he needed to have a respectable social life. However, that was all before university. University sucks a lot of money into its sizable vortex, and Mom and Dad are not made of money, so a job was very much a necessity. But as I watched him realize that his entire summer was now to be spent working, I couldn’t help but feel his pain.
This was not just a job. It was a symbol of his youth disappearing. The days of idleness and carefree sojourns, free of responsibility, were coming to an end. He was moving into the adult world, a world typically comprised of hard work, long hours, ambition, expectations, pressure, and stress—definitely not the world of his youth.
How many of us lament the loss of our own summer? We get swept into a life that may not look like the one we had imagined for ourselves. We get swept up in the want to prove, the want to keep up with the Jones, the want to establish ourselves as successful in the eyes of others. And often, we lose ourselves and our dreams, our desires, and our sense of fun and playfulness in the process. We can become automatons just churning out a good wage, chugging through the daily grind. We can become stuck. And when we are stuck in a situation we are unhappy about, we will often look to that grass on the other side and lament what we don’t have, or lament what we have lost.
That lamentation is a glimpse into our soul, our true nature; it is a peak into our deepest desires: long since relegated to the back seat. It is our passions trying to re-establish themselves, trying to let us know ‘hey, this is not all we are.’ It is an invitation to try and incorporate some of the things we love back into our lives, to take a moment each day to follow what feels good, instead of what is expected of us.
Summer doesn’t have to be lost forever. It is a choice to let it slip through our fingers, becoming a figment of our past. Summer can be now: every day. Remember what it felt like to just lay around, free of responsibility, to go swimming, or hiking through the forest, running through the fields, or climbing trees … rekindle that sense of fun, that sense of joy and peace. Make happiness a priority. Make engaging in activities that make you happy, your life’s pursuit. We can’t always pick up and change our life completely, but we can make small changes every day that move us closer to a glorious summer.
I’ve encouraged my son to put half of the money he will make toward his university fund, the other half is for him to live—and I don’t mean on things like food, board, or utilities, it needs to be spent on him, on things he will enjoy, that will make him happy. Things like trips to Canada’s Wonderland with his friends or something as grand as a vacation in Europe.
We get caught up in the necessities, putting every cent we make toward just carving out an existence. We need to start a ‘Fun Fund’—a little something for a ‘rainy mood day’ so we can do something to make us feel good. Fun Funds can go toward a bouquet of flowers, a new mani/pedi, an hour at the library just basking in the silence, curling up with a good book by the fire, or in bed, going to a movie—yes, even alone, buying a new electronic toy, or new shoes, tinkering with a hobby. The list is endless, and obviously very personal.
The key is to take some ‘me time,’ whenever you can eke out a moment and toss any feelings of guilt whatsoever out the window and just enjoy yourself. You are entitled to happiness. You deserve happiness. Happiness is your birthright; make it a priority—make YOU a priority. And no matter where life takes you, don’t compromise that happiness.
Enjoy your summer!