The sun’s golden glow caresses your warm skin, speckling constellations of kisses on salty cheeks that glitter against the swooning azure skies above. Someone’s UE Boom is playing the group’s collated chill playlist as you sunbathe upon soft beach towels, soaking up every last ray of sun, drunk on summer’s ambrosia. As you slowly drift in and out of sweet slumber, the sound of waves licking the shore wash away every worry…
Summer. The season where we all pray that our suffering through the monotonous dread of exams culminates in a blissful and carefree few months of fun under the sun. We cling onto the hopes of road trips, catch-ups with friends, real fruit ice cream by the beach like they’re the scenes of a coming-of-age film we’re desperate to recreate.
After all, how could we not love the summer break? It’s the subject of countless songs and films, not to mention the setting of all 4 seasons of Phineas and Ferb. No wonder there’s an almost universal pressure to feel like we must all be having THE time of our lives, squeezing out every precious moment that summer has to offer. It’s like as soon as daylight savings kicks in, everything else just magically becomes better…
But does it, really?
Before we can even catch our breath many of us are flung into full-time internships, replacing our previous deadlines and suffocating schedules with new corporate ones. Or we’re pushed into full-time work, where we’re paid minimum wage to have our souls sucked dry with hours of dull and tedious manual labour. For most of us we’re not riding through the Italian countryside with Timothee Chalamet or dancing atop bleachers with John Travolta with his shiny pompadour and black leather jacket… instead, we’re stuck with the same rinse and repeat cycle, just rebranded in shinier packaging.
When our allocated slots of leisure time eventually roll around, we’re either too exhausted to do anything fun or completely disoriented because we don’t know how to properly relax. As soon as the Canvas deadlines dissipate, in come the unwanted thoughts and the stubborn feelings of guilt that continue to linger even after we’ve handed in all our assignments. The scary abyss that becomes free time sends us into sinking spirals of overthinking, leading to unwelcome existential crises where you’re questioning every decision you’ve made since you were in nappies. It’s almost as if our brains default to self-destruction the minute we’re not occupied with grey hair inducing due dates and a stack of piling lectures to catch up on.
Of course, this all occurs while the obnoxiously sunny weather outside passive aggressively smiles down at you as you struggle to leave your bed, which has now become way too hot and sweaty to be comfortable in. Or when you’re scrolling through everyone’s cheerful Instagram stories that seem to be accompanied by a laughing track, mocking your misery like you’re stuck in some sadistic sitcom you don’t recall auditioning for. Even though social media makes everyone’s life seem 1000x more glamorous than our dull shared reality year round, at least in winter we’re all forced to be inside and the weather cries along with us somewhat sympathetically…
Maybe there’s some mercury retrograde that’s really pushing my Capricorn moon into overdrive or maybe the 4 years of work in hospo has finally broken my undying optimism — whatever reason, just let me have a Lana Del Rey sad girl moment and shit on summer! I’m here to represent everyone that feels consistently let down by this mosquito-infested, sweaty bang and sunscreen grease-filled season.
It’s okay to not be living out the 35mm film-worthy summer you envisioned in the depths of the fever dream that was the previous lockdown. Following those idealistic expectations only creates additional stress and I’m sure we’ve all had enough of that in our lives. Also just a side note, please don’t be fooled by the catfish sorcery that film cameras generate! As a point and shoot eNthUsiAsT (I use this term very very loosely), I can tell you that film pictures make even the most mundane events look artsy and romantic. But will I still keep paying $1.50 for every shaky, eyes half-closed snapshot I take with my brick of a camera? Pretentiously, yes.
While I’m far from a life coach, a word of (unsolicited) advice for anyone feeling the lemon-lime bitterness of summer – forcing yourself to make the most of every waking minute is extremely unproductive and unrealistic. Embrace your complete lack of motivation to do anything but beat your old high scores on CoolMathsGames! Rewatch all your comfort films in the same stain-covered shirt you’ve slept in for the past week till you can recite the entire screenplay! Let yourself sag in your blankets like the deflated balloon that you are!
From one air-less spherical piece of rubber to another, I promise that removing the idealistic expectations of summer is much healthier than filling up the Google Calendar with 2837 never-ending distractions. Actually, that’s just what I’m telling myself to feel better about feeling like a disappointment — but I do think that learning to be content in our own company without external occupations is a skill many of us struggle with. And I’m not sure how running away from our own thoughts is going to be of much help.
Maybe this is the summer that I’ll start actively unlearning my internalised capitalism and hopefully not burn out a couple months into the academic year. Would be nice to take my own advice for once. Well, whatever I end up doing in the remaining 2ish months of this overhyped holiday break, I’ve written this to keep myself accountable — and maybe yourself too?