For many people, this past summer vacation wasn’t a vacation at all. Though school theoretically let out for two months, the grind never stops in May and starts back up in August like it’s supposed to. Gunn students have done everything from running summer camps to winning prestigious competitions to travelling the world building schoolhouses for blind orphans. Am I one of these students? No. Do I feel guilty for not being one of these students? Not really.
I spent my break the way I have always spent my break for the past 10 years; doing absolutely nothing productive. Like a bear hibernating from the cold to survive the winter, a student must hibernate from work in the summer if he or she wants to survive the next school year.
But apparently, no one seems to agree with me. All summer my parents tried to guilt trip me into applying for internships, previewing next year’s classes and working on my long overdue Eagle Scout project. “Have you studied for the SAT?” v “Why didn’t you get accepted into (insert elitist college summer program)?” were sprinkled into every conversation I had with them. If that wasn’t enough, every one of my friends had their entire vacations planned out with Living Skills classes, volunteer service time and sports conditioning, mysteriously forgetting to set aside time for all the hang-out plans we talked about all school year.
My parents’ nagging and my friends’ unavailability eventually pushed me to the breaking point. So naturally one day in late June, I decided to run away from home. No one was in the house, so a few minutes, a Clipper Card and a neglected phone call later I was on the Northbound Caltrain to my own unplanned solo mini-vacation to San Francisco. I don’t remember where I went. I don’t even know if I got off the train at the right station. But I do remember trying to decide between going to the Federal Reserve, taking a ferry across the bay to Alameda and waltzing into a bakery to ask for gluten free avocado toast.
I also remember feeling an otherworldly detachment from reality I had never felt before. I was 50 miles away from home with zero supervision. I could have walked in any direction and that direction was the right way to go because no one was there to tell me otherwise. This feeling was what I wanted my summer to be.
I still can’t imagine how working adults keep themselves mentally intact without a mandatory two months off to enjoy themselves the way students on summer vacation do. For the 12 years we are in school, we kids have this amazing chunk of time where we get to pull the covers over our heads at 10 a.m every day and say, “Go away, Mom, I’m trying to sleep.”
Yet every year, Mom nags a little harder. Every year we wake up a little earlier, letting another person stick another thing onto our agendas. “This activity won’t stress me out,” we say. “This internship looks great on my college apps.” Every summer, we chip away at our free time and with it, our sanity.
I would love to travel to Uganda to run a hospital or go to a university to help Professor Nobel-Prize-Harvard-Degree Ph.D. cure cancer, but I think my sanity matters more.