It feels weird to have a summer break, because it seems that people my age (and over) doesn’t really have this luxury. Off the top of my head I could only think of one colleague who has no real obligations this summer, and in fact, she decided to vacation in Europe for a while. I’m quite spoiled to not have any real obligations this summer – no school, no internship, no job. Until school starts up again in September, I’m pretty much free to do my own thing, whatever that means.
Ever since I was a teenager, my dad tried to instill me this sense of obligation and ambition. I would argue to my dad that all my friends were out playing, enjoying their summer vacations. My dad shook his head and continued his stern lecture about how I’m not supposed to compare myself to them. I should be looking up instead to those few who were utilizing this time to better themselves. While it was okay for me to occasionally hang out with my friends and play video games, I should still be spending most of my time studying and reading important books, and otherwise readying myself for the next school year. I remember that one summer (as a sophomore in high school), a friend’s dad was baffled at my explanation, that I couldn’t hang out for long because I had to go back home in time to study.
“Study what?” He had asked. A totally rhetorical question of course. But still, to fill the pause, he continued, “It’s summer. There’s no school. There’s nothing to study for.”
Right. Tell that to my dad. For my dad, who immigrated to America believing that it would be the best thing for my education, school being on break was no excuse to stop studying. There was important literature to read, SAT exam to prepare for, violin to practice, etc. Idle fun moments were looked down upon. Though, to me, those idle fun moments were my rewards for complying with my dad’s pressure to study. There were a few instances in which it felt unfair and unwarranted, but I ultimately stuck with it. A great part of me didn’t disagree with my dad; it was important to be productive during summer break, engage in activities that would better myself.
After college and living on my own, summer break was one-part relaxing, and the other part dreadful. All that free time allowed me to be lazy – binge-watch Netflix, play hours of video games, hang out with friends over the weekend… I had worked night shifts at the shelter so my sleep cycle was already irregular, and without any real obligations, my life routine was an unpredictable mess. That was great actually, to have all this time to just be able to enjoy myself, without much care in the world. Only, there was this inner voice that was quite upset with me. I had come to internalize all those years my dad pressured me to be productive, even during summer breaks. A day spent just enjoying myself was a day wasted. It wasn’t guilt, but something a bit like that emotion. Being lazy was enjoyable but a deep part of me couldn’t bear allowing it to continue.
That inner voice has gotten louder this year, and shriller than before. I don’t really have any obligation until early September. With the money I currently have in my account, I’m pretty secure until September so I don’t need a job or anything. My private loans are in deferment, and once it’s September, I’ll have my loans for my second and final year as a graduate student. Technically, I’m 27, but I may as well be 16 again. I mean, I have some adult responsibilities like cooking meals for myself and doing laundry, but those are still just personal routine tasks, and not too different to chores I had to do as a teenager. 27 is still very young, but at this point, I feel like I’m much younger, like a teenager.
I’m confident though that my inner voice will eventually win out, and probably very quickly. I’m already feeling that I wasted too many days being idle. I have a lot of things to read, and even more things to write. And there are actually a few things I have to make sure are cleared away. The most important thing of course is to be placed in an internship for the next school year. The Doe Fund interviewed me a couple weeks back, but to my disappointment, they determined that I didn’t have the necessary experience to be considered for the placement. I think it’s more because I was rather awkward in the interview, because while it is a valid point that I lack experience in research and macro practice, I figure an internship is usually supposed to be an opportunity for the student to gain that experience. Whatever, in any case, I have another interview to attend to next Monday. I plan on being better prepared for that one.
Next school year, I will start delving into my concentration – poverty and homelessness. My internship – whatever it may be – will be heavily related to this concentration. As a social work student, this topic is one I have the most experience in, but I’m realizing I need to spend more time reflecting on this matter. For any interview, I have to make sure I can be eloquent about why homelessness matters so much to me, why I’m so interested in the kind of social work that addresses homelessness and poverty. I’m finding that it’s actually quite difficult for me to answer that question. It’s just something I’ve felt very passionate about all this time, but still, coming up with words to explain that passion has not felt natural. It’s almost like I’ll need to spend some time to come up with a prepared statement.
Not being considered for the internship at The Doe Fund is pretty much the first time I’ve been turned down from a potential internship. Interviews for internships are still serious sure, but they’re not like job interviews, certainly not when the NYU field office has a hand in connecting me to the placements. So honestly, being turned down from being an unpaid intern at The Doe Fund stings quite a bit. I got the sense that the workplace environment might prove to be a bit awkward, but aside from that, for me it would have been an amazing opportunity. The Doe Fund is quite a remarkable organization that does many innovative things to serve the formerly homeless and incarcerated populations. To have been a part of the organization would have been quite something, and may have potentially acted as a stepping stone for me after I graduated with an MSW. It’s a missed opportunity and the rejection does feel quite sore.
There are hundreds of other potential placements though, hence why I have an interview this upcoming Monday. Having actually been turned down from a placement site, now I’m feeling fairly insecure. I am very familiar with the organization I may end up interning at (certainly more familiar with it than The Doe Fund), and so I probably have a stronger chance with this one, though that doesn’t have me feeling any more confident.
This summer thus would and should be a time for me to build my confidence. I need to get caught up on all the readings that I couldn’t get to during the school year. It’s weird that even with all that I didn’t do, I still managed to pull A’s in a lot of my classes. I feel like I lucked out, and not like I actually deserved what I got. But again, that’s the inner voice within me being hard on myself. My inner voice tends to do that a lot. It’s the side effect of having a pushy Korean parent for a dad, which I’m ultimately grateful for, if not also a bit resentful for.
There’s also one obligation that has remained incomplete for far too long. It’s long overdue actually. For my former internship at the local high school, my project was to revise the curriculum for the Young Men’s/Women’s Group(s). It’s still an unfinished project at this point. Regrettably, I ended up procrastinating on the project too many times. I’m sure I could get it finished promptly once I devote a lot of my energy and time on it. My inner voice is screaming about this one, so much so that this is the one thing I have to make sure I complete this summer, above all other things.
So far my plans for the summer are filled with these things I intend to get prepared for and complete. I’m allowing myself a great degree of flexibility to get these things done. My greatest hope (and plan) is that before I begin the next (my last) school year as a graduate student, I establish a set routine for myself – a structured sleeping cycle; healthy and productive habits, and a timely process for my many “obligations.” I struggled this past school year mainly because my days were so unorganized and messy. There’s a part of me that rebels against that inner voice (there always has been), and while I find myself fighting and fighting to not lose to that inner voice, this summer is the time to formulate a workable compromise. I can’t just luck my way out of my second year like I did with my first year as a grad student.