Part of going to an elite university is sometimes there’s an overwhelming pressure to always be busy. During time off from rigorous academic schedules, many feel that they should be doing something exciting and career-enhancing. I stressed myself out all second semester looking for internships and jobs to keep myself occupied this summer. To my dismay, every single plan I made fell through. Even the class I was going to take at the community college back home was canceled. I left Ann Arbor feeling defeated, boredom already seeping in. But I didn’t stay bored for long. A couple internships worked out, I secured a job, I took online classes. Suddenly, my summer was full of fulfilling experiences.

My most adventurous endeavor was going to Los Angeles for a month-long film internship. I lived on my own for a month in a city I’d never been to without knowing a soul — a seven-hour plane ride from my home. I worked a nine-to-five internship at a film company and loved (almost) every second of it. I explored career options I didn’t even know existed. I fulfilled dreams, I expanded my resume, but mostly I learned how strong I was.

When I came back, I nannied a two-and-a-half-year-old toddler, getting a different taste of adult responsibilities. As I was making sure she didn’t run into the road or fall down the stairs, I found the old saying that babysitting is the best birth control to be true in as many ways as it is false.

I even explored my local theatre, doing an internship that allowed me to learn the stories of people in my community. I reconnected with the home I found last summer before making Ann Arbor my home. I found a passion for hearing and sharing other people’s stories.

All these experiences proved to be hard work, but incredibly fulfilling. I grew in so many ways that I barely recognized myself. Away from the tight schedules and academic pressures of the school year, summer is the time when we finally have a chance to explore who we are and who we want to be. A lot of that comes from the new opportunities we are allowed to explore, such as jobs, internships and volunteer work. But a lot also comes from having some time to ourselves to indulge in our passions and give ourselves time to expand our minds on our own terms.

In the weeks between jobs, I found myself growing more and more comfortable having time to myself, with a lot of my summer spent curled on on my bed typing aggressively on my laptop or quietly strumming my guitar. I finally had the freedom to do all the projects I always wanted to do but was too busy to actually do. At first, it was a lot of pressure. But eventually, I settled into starting projects for myself and not worrying about having to finish them for a deadline. That led to a lot of unfinished projects, but also a lot of new and exciting ideas.

I wrote a synopsis for about seven different plays I wanted to write and didn’t finish any of them. I watched documentaries. I learned how to do a mediocre Scottish accent for no reason other than I thought it would be a fun skill to have. I discovered new music (thanks Ben Platt for the title). I gave my Instagram an aesthetic, I painted, I wrote, I cooked. I slept in until noon and watched all of Arrested Developmentin one week. I lived in my own skin and began to enjoy having time to myself for the first time in a long time.

Growth isn’t only about keeping busy and having the coolest summer story. As high achieving students, sometimes we feel that if we’re not doing the best internship out there, we aren’t doing enough. But having a balance of these things is how we grow into who we are meant to be. We need days where we work nine to five at a dream internship and days when we sleep until noon and write crappy plays, or even just binge Netflix. Growth is a process, and all forms of creativity add to it. My summer may be over, but the growth from it will continue on throughout the school year and beyond.

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