Assignment #1: “Life Lessons: A Summer Odyssey”

At the start of summer vacation, I was excited to have all the time I wanted to relax and take pleasure doing the things that, during the school year, I had little time for. I imagined beach days and crossing out books on my to-read list and finally getting to marathon shows on Netflix that had been sitting in my queue. I felt motivated to get a job and to save up money to buy nice things for myself like I had always wished I could. My vision of the summer was shining brightly before me as I drove back home after my last exam that April.

The reality of summer was much different, however. I did get a job, but it was nothing glamorous or well paying; just a minimum wage position at a music store in the mall, working maybe eight hours a week. The daydreams of saving up and treating myself all summer dried up quickly after receiving my first paycheck, a mere thirty dollars.

Not only was my job lack-luster, but instead of relishing all of the free time I suddenly had, it seemed like there was too much free time. I got sick of reading after finishing six books in four days. I cleared through my Netflix queue in record time, and then it seemed like there was never anything good on TV. My friends had jobs that actually put them to work during the week, and so I was left to amuse myself more often than not. I felt that, after only the first month of vacation, I wanted to go back to school again.

Having a regular schedule is definitely not something to take for granted. What was first merely boredom soon became lethargy, and had I let it continue it could have become apathy and sloth. My moods became bitter and volatile, I gained some weight, and I started to lose the motivation to do anything besides lay in bed all day. I was in a serious rut, and I had to get out; I did not want to be stuck, in the dark and miserable, all summer!

I Skyped with a few of my college friends one day to cheer myself up, and they told me all about their exciting and busy lives. One friend was constantly picking up shifts as a hostess in a restaurant when she was not catching up with old high school buddies. The other was completely booked to housesit all summer, where she made nearly $500 a week per house. They were both worried about me when I described my uneventful, empty days. They suggested taking up a new hobby, or maybe getting a second job.

The first friend shared that she had actually applied for a writing position with an online magazine, Odyssey. She wrote articles every week on whatever topic she wanted, in whatever format she wanted- from opinion pieces, to investigative ones, and even the popular “listicle” pieces. After filling out the easy application online, she had a Skype interview and sent in a sample of her writing, and was hired almost immediately. She encouraged me to apply as well, and then we could work together despite the distance between us.

I was hesitant to try, at first. I told myself that I was not good enough to write articles that people would want to read, and that I would have nothing to write about after a few weeks. Then I realized that the only thing preventing me from succeeding was myself. If I wanted to change the way my life was going, I needed to take advantage of the opportunities before me instead of doing nothing and complaining. I needed to climb out of the rut I had fallen into and reach for the things I wanted.

The next day, I carefully filled out the online application to become a writer for Odyssey. It took much longer than it should have because I agonized over the simplest of details, the anxiety and fear of rejection coloring my answers. When it was completed, I had so much nervous energy that I paced by my phone for an hour, waiting for the call that would tell me, “Thanks, but no thanks. You’re not what we want.” After a while with no phone call, I forced myself to push it from my mind and tried to be productive, instead. My bedroom was spotless and organized by the time the call finally came in three hours later.

The caller was another young woman, and she kept the interview very casual. She asked me easy questions like, “Why do you enjoy writing?” and “Why do you want to work with Odyssey?” After speaking with her for a few minutes, she asked for a writing sample and told me that I was hired.

The impact that this had on me may seem exaggerated to some, but I felt transformed. I had never experienced that feeling of confidence and empowerment to just go out and do something. For as long as I could remember, that just was not possible for me. Before making any big decision, I almost had to know for a fact that I would succeed before I could make a decision, because otherwise I would be crippled by self-doubt.

This confidence and renewed motivation in myself continued throughout the rest of the summer, and I dug myself out of that rut. I was finally happy and enjoying my free time, and I felt like I was doing something productive with my summer as well.

The lesson I learned is that you need to take initiative in life if you want to be happy. I was not happy when I had no purpose without school, and instead of trying to find a new purpose, I expected something good to fall into place. When that did not happen, I fell into a rut. Expecting good things to happen to you eventually is not a healthy or effective way of living. You need to go out and get the good things in life yourself.

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