Summer: Your Opportunity for a Brand-New Identity

by Jacob Johnson

Summer is close; I can nearly taste it. In just a few days the monotony of weekly assignments and quizzes will give way to unregulated and unadulterated freedom. I exaggerate, but the days of sleeping in until half past nine, sprinting across campus in God only knows what form of weather abomination the day has determined to provide, and slipping into Differential Equations just before Dr. Basnet gives his customary “good morning” are all but over. With each item I check off my to-do list I also move closer to coming to terms with a startling realization. Soon my quintessential college life will give way to some strange derivation of the typical suburban experience. My late mornings will be replaced with early commutes, small dorm room traded in for an empty house complete with a front yard and white picket fence, and nearly daily trips to Clyde’s for a burger substituted with time spent packing lunches in the kitchen for my next day on the job.

In a way, I feel like this summer will be a test drive of the life I have always dreamed of, and yet I cannot help but think of myself as an imposter dipping his toes into a cold pool of water still in need of a few weeks of spring heat. I am only a sophomore here at Iowa State and the prospect of occupying my own empty house, having a job in the engineering industry, and living in a city considerably larger than Ames seems strange. Of course, I am ecstatic about the opportunity; the job will be an incredible learning opportunity, finding a house to watch for the summer feels divine, and being able to live in a city with buildings taller than the local grain elevator is, frankly, refreshing. That said, it all seems a bit out of place considering my academics still require two more years of attention before I emerge into the world a fully formed computer engineer complete with pocket protector, binary wrist watch, and ASCII table in hand. Look out ladies.

However, the more I thought about my situation the more I realized it is really not all that unusual. A majority of college students will spend their summers operating within curious and perhaps even outlandish sets of circumstances. Whether lifeguarding back home, interning in another city, or even exploring another country, summers can feel out of place when considered against the backdrop of our collegiate careers. We occupy a strange void between high school identities and a long term profession, between young and true adulthood. More than that, summer represents a break from our only tangible identity of “college student” and forces us to take on some other form, but I think that is a good thing.

Leaving Iowa State gives us an opportunity to apply not only what we have learned in the classroom, but also the changes we have made within ourselves. It is a test of our determination to succeed when there is not a grade on the line, an appraisal of our commitment to learn, explore, and create without the regulation of a syllabus. After all, “honors” can be more than a title exclusively applied to our academics; it can be an adjective of our life styles, a description of our commitment to excellence in everything we do. We can commit to teaching ourselves something new and to exploring the world around us. We can determine to follow up on our passions and help others to do the same. We can learn more about the opinions of others and in the process come to better understand our own. In short, we can take the time to better ourselves outside of the classroom no matter what strange set of summer circumstances we may find ourselves in.

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