Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

It’s now June. If you’re still in high school, you’re probably anxiously awaiting that final dismissal bell in a couple weeks. If you’re in college, you’re probably living it up in your hometown with family and old friends, catching up and taking advantage of the long, carefree days of sun. I am neither of those. I have been on summer break from college since May 9th and I have been spending it alone (aside from mostly immediate family and sporadic visits from da bae), because I have no high school friends.

I promise it’s not as depressing as it sounds. I simply didn’t keep in contact with friends from high school. In fact, I kind of graduated wanting to leave everything behind. It wasn’t a fun four years for me and I didn’t care to keep any memories of that time. I’m not nostalgic for my hometown as much as I am for just my own home. Sure, I wish I could hit up the beach or mall with someone other than my mom (though I’m very grateful she loves to take me because I do enjoy a new crop top). But I suppose I’m introverted enough that I can do without exciting outings for weeks on end.

The following are things I do during breaks not because I don’t have friends to go out with, but simply because I want to, and what better time to start than now? I’ve been developing a life philosophy of constant improvement: physically, mentally, and intellectually. I take advantage of breaks as time to heal from college stress and strive to improve myself in all ways.

If you’re in the no-friends boat like me, I hope this helps with putting all this new free time to use. If you do have friends in your boat or are still in high school, maybe these suggestions can still find a space in your fun-filled (or finals-filled) days.

Reading (and Watching)

It’s inevitable you’ll hear the suggestion to read over breaks, and rightfully so. But I’m not going to waste your time saying you ought to pick up a copy of The Iliad or Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. If you truly want to make your reading time worthwhile, you have to read something you’re interested in. The beauty is, I’m not talking about just books. Read newspapers, websites, blogs, books, magazines, and online forums. Be passionate about something and read everything about it, regardless of the medium. My boyfriend started lifting a couple months ago. Whenever he wasn’t sleeping, he was reading: protein powder reviews, proper form diagrams, personal progress stories.

He also watched/listened to hours and hours of videos related to lifting. This allowed him to multitask: listening to lessons on proper form while doing homework (or while he was supposed to be doing homework) or while spending time with me (much to my disappointment). I, myself, do my daily workout while listening to Youtube videos about meal plan ideas and tips on staying motivated to eat healthy.

However, I put watching more as a side suggestion because of the possibility of passive watching. I’m definitely guilty of having a motivational video play in the background of me paying more attention to my Tumblr dash. I strongly suggest reading by itself (because it requires more focus) but watching videos while doing something related to its topic to keep yourself engaged.

Whichever way you get the information, absorb it. If you find something you’re passionate about (or even just interested in), you should spend your time immersing yourself in content through different media to get the full experience.

Working Out

I stand by this with my life. Fitness is THE best hobby to have, because if you put the time and effort into getting as much out of it as you can, it’s not just a hobby: it’s a lifestyle. I started working out about a month ago and it has probably been the best decision I’ve made for my quality of life. I have more energy, I eat cleaner (and the proper amount), I feel more confident in my body, and my relationship with my boyfriend has been strengthened.

My boyfriend had noticed my awful eating habits at school had been taking a toll on my body and encouraged me to come to the gym with him. He’d teach me proper lifting and nutrition, purely for my own health. I pushed the suggestion away as a not-so-subtle way of saying, “You’ve gained some weight.” But coming back home for the summer, I thought, “Why not?” Bad eating patterns and no exercise negatively changed my body. (I couldn’t walk ten minutes to class without being winded.) Good eating patterns and exercise would strengthen it. I would only greatly benefit from being fit.

So I hopped on the elliptical a couple times a week. I started cutting out junk food. I calculated the proper amount of calories I should be consuming to fit my lifestyle, and started counting calories. I told my boyfriend what I was doing and he gave me a workout. He introduced me to a form of dieting called IIFYM (If it Fits Your Macros), and I started counting macronutrients. One month out of school and I can see positive changes in my body.

Plenty of people, especially young college students, are concerned about their body image and health. We hear warnings of never ending buffets in dining halls and the Freshman 15, but it’s not a lost hope when you become unhealthy at school. Take the summer the revamp your lifestyle for the better. When you develop a healthy lifestyle pattern for four months at home, continuing it at school won’t seem intimidating.

Cleaning

I don’t mean washing dishes or doing the laundry (though it would do some good for your household to do so). I do mean cleaning your room, however. In addition to gaining knowledge and muscle and losing unhealthy lifestyle patterns, I suggest also losing a bit of everything: a life cleanse. Winter and summer breaks mark the ending of a period of time, and the beginning of a new one. I enjoy using such breaks to rid myself of the excess and unnecessary: clothes, belongings, people, and feelings.

There is no need to hold onto something that doesn’t serve you a positive purpose. Clean out your closet into three piles: keep, throw, donate. Keep what you know you wear or can imagine a specific occasion for which to wear it. Throw clothes with stains, rips, or holes that can’t be repaired. Donate clothes that will never fit despite natural body shape fluctuations, or clothes you simply don’t wear or like. Clean your room into the same three piles. You now have more space and less clutter, overall a clear atmosphere for less stress.

Now just keep and throw for people and feelings. This may be harder. You see all over Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram: advice telling you to let go of toxic people and that you won’t be able to grow without being free from negativity. It’s beginning to sound cliche and common sense, but it’s a truly life-changing philosophy. You will be burdened if you have that ‘friend’ who ‘jokingly’ insults you, or that ex you ‘can’t help’ but text back when she says she misses you. But you don’t have to be. While you’re away from professors, friends, and enemies in the confines of your own house, examine yourself. What (or who) is working for you? What is bringing you down, holding you back, preventing you from being happy and comfortable with your life?

The people who insult you or your loved ones, the old friends who only remember your existence when it’s convenient for them, and the nostalgia of relationships or friendships that started out well but then went downhill. It’s better to face forward, look back, and say, “It was good,” rather than forever face back, look to the past, and keep thinking, “It can still be good.” Dust yourself off, leave the toxic behind, and walk forward with those who support you.

It can be discouraging, losing high school friends or being far from college friends during the summer. But I don’t think it’s an excuse to sit around and be sad, or waste away in bed with Netflix marathons and chips for weeks. Take some time to relax and unwind at home. But one day, decide to get up and make use of your time. You don’t need to go out to Starbucks with your friends to have a fulfilling summer. Spend your time improving yourself. I promise the attitude and lifestyle changes will be worth it.



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the author

Alicia Lalicon is a junior at The College of New Jersey, pursuing a Psychology major with a Women’s and Gender Studies minor. When she’s not reading about mental health and feminist ideas, she proudly enjoys dancing across bamboo sticks as the secretary of Barkada (TCNJ’s Filipino club). Her life philosophy is to always strive for improvement: physically, mentally, and intellectually. Her life motto is “You don’t owe anyone any emotions or reactions.” You can find her being seemingly cold-hearted on Twitter, reblogging black clothes and food on Tumblr, and reading intently behind a book or laptop screen.

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