Summer vacation provides students opportunity for solitude, growthBy Chisolm Allenlundy | 04/06/2015 8:02am
Because this is my last column for the year, I feel it's appropriate to say something that's relevant to the end of the academic year. This will be my third summer while in college, and I have begun to notice a consistent pattern forming, stretching back even to high school. Though there's no mistake I have grown and learned an incredible amount while in school, the vast majority of the growth and learning I have experienced has come to me during the summer months.
I can attribute this to several factors, but there are two in particular I think are worth taking away and applying. First, at least in my experience, summer is a much-needed hiatus from constant, nearly endless interaction with other people. I say this without any suggestion that such interaction is negative or unwanted. On the contrary, I am consistently learning an incredible amount from others, even and sometimes especially those from whom I least expect it. However, what often gets lost in this daily interaction is the importance of solitude. When we are alone is when we gather the events of our lives and synthesize them into something that can be reflected upon. Even the most extroverted and people-loving of us must take time to consider our lives and our relationship with the rest of the world apart from it. Often school allows us no such leisure, as we are constantly caught up in the hustle and bustle of group projects, extracurricular activities and socializing. Though all of these are necessary for wellness, they can crowd out the time we must have to ourselves to simply ponder where we are in our lives.
The second factor that I have come to internalize is the importance of removing oneself from schoolwork. No doubt, we are in college for a reason, and a large part of that reason is to gain "book smarts." That said, an insidious byproduct of the incessant focus and emphasis on studying and getting the grades is that we, or at least I, can quickly forget how irrelevant this type of learning is to so much of our lives. It should not be a first priority, though it quite often is. For those of us who have the privilege of not taking classes during the summer, we are reminded how little our narrow focus on school impacts our growth and development as creative and independent thinkers. As someone whose distaste for lectures and homework in which I have little personally invested in has only grown exponentially over time, I can confidently say that the world outside of school is many times more interesting, impacting and necessary to our happiness than anything we can receive in a classroom. Just as endless human interaction can stifle growth, so can endless schoolwork and studying.
I point these things out to make the case for changing the current state of affairs. We should not force ourselves to endure a daily routine that we do not enjoy simply in the hopes that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – especially if all that light amounts to is more profoundly uninteresting work and people, but for money. We must take it upon ourselves to make time for the things that we need to maximize our wellness. That means periodically getting away from friends, peers, colleagues and co-workers and doing something on our own. Codependence is neither healthy nor a particularly attractive trait in people, and we should not feel insecure removing ourselves from our social circles in order to spend time alone and personally reflect. Likewise, while I am not advocating a wholesale abandonment of our academics (though I'm not not advocating it either), we must remind ourselves how little difference our GPA makes in the entirety of our lives. Our human wellness is many, many times more essential to happiness than how well we do on any given test.
The summer break from the academic year always reminds me of these truths, but they need not do so. It shouldn't be the case that I or anyone else only experiences pleasant solitude and freedom from the stress of school during these short months. We live and grow throughout the entire year, not just during May, June and July. Going into finals, we would do well to remember that. Have a fantastic summer, and it's been a pleasure writing for you all.
Chisolm Allenlundy is a junior majoring in philosophy and economics. His column runs weekly.