When I graduated from college two years ago I spent the following summer in denial that it would most likely be my last. No more month-long spiritual escapades to Israel or cool resume building internships. No more risky, last minute trips or waitering jobs, or summer classes. Working my first full-time job taught me the definition of full-time. It means that work takes up the bulk of your day (no matter how beautiful the weather) and you’ll just have to deal with that.There are only so many hours of daylight and, although your job may be hellbent on stealing most of them, there is no doubt that summer is still the ultimate time for adventure.
Do you wake up craving it like I do? To go somewhere you’ve never been, to eat something you’ve never eaten, to wake up just before sunrise and have an entire day before anybody else? Or maybe, to just stay home and spend some quality time with your family, or yourself. To connect to something bigger, something internal, to expand your repertoire of experiences, and to seek.
Sometimes I wake up and want nothing more than to skip the sweaty train ride, the rushed breakfast, and the full day of screen time. Working throughout the summer can be spiritually and emotionally draining. But I’ve found that there are tiny little ways to work adventure into your daily routine. We don’t need to go big or go home. We can go to work and still experience summer, maybe even a spiritually uplifting one, whatever that means to you.
Here are five ways to keep your summer soul satisfied without losing your 9-5.
Be a person who plans things.
I used to be really good at what I like to call, “making fake plans.” Making fake plans happens when you bump into an old friend and say, “let’s do something together soon…” And then the rest of your life goes by and “soon” never comes. Making “real” plans means being a person who takes action. If you really want to see said old friend, then you’ll follow up with a time and a place. You’ll confirm. Summer is a great time to catch up with the other 9-5ers who are adventure seekers like you. I’ve found that it’s really important (and special) to schedule time with like-minded friends to work on personal goals, dreams, and hobbies. There are few things more gratifying than spending time with people who can remind you how special life is.
Integrate intentional summer fun into your daily routine
Summer is a state of mind. There are easy ways to infuse your daily routine with fun, special activities. It’s okay to keep it small. When I wake up in the morning I ask myself — “how will I make this day different from all other days? Who will I be today? What am I really looking forward to?”
If I can’t think of anything, then I start making things up or choosing things to feel excited about. Sometimes it’s deciding to get ice cream for lunch or call my sister while she drives to work. Sometimes it’s choosing platform sandals instead of flats and flavored coffee instead of water. While the Muse advises me to switch up my wardrobe and buy a plant for my desk, I think we can go deeper than this. Connecting intentions to these actions can help make them healthier as well as more meaningful. How will choosing to put a living plant on my desk infuse my life and my summer with more meaning? How will it make me feel if I show up at work one day with a box of popsicles to share? How will it make others feel? Summer is a ball of potential waiting to be activated.
When adventure calls, you should pick up
During the winter I make every excuse to hide. I blame the cold, the rain, the snow, the mailman, anything to stay inside and away from the dismal, dark mornings and early sunsets. In the spring and summer, people crawl out of their holes and start jogging again. I feel closer to myself and to G-d when I can spend meaningful time outside and with others, and on my own. Warm weather fills me up with desire and I’m prone to catching the adventure bug.
In the summer I let myself turn into a yes-woman. I empower myself to let laziness lie and I say “yes.” Yes to a new writing class recommended by a friend, yes to a Friday night dinner with total strangers, yes to late night ice cream and concerts I’d never go to on my own.
Summer is a great time to open ourselves up to new things. That can mean learning a new skill, taking more risks, or just trying a new recipe. It’s so easy to let the heavy, humid days tire us out and to let the trains carry us straight home after work. In the summer there is infinite daylight, even after 5pm, and there’s plenty to do with it if we let ourselves. Go on one adventure per week either before or after work. Before you were working full time, summer was most likely a time for new experiences and most importantly, meeting new friends. Don’t let your standardized day-time routine scare you away from the New.
Let commuting be a spiritual summer practice
I can’t speak to other places, but commuting in New York City in the summer is almost as bad as commuting in New York City in the winter. The trains are crowded and human beings become oily sardines, vacuum sealed behind heavy doors. It’s easy to feel like one little speck in a massive city, competing for the same sticky spot on the subway bench as the person next to you. But the time you spend commuting has a tremendous amount of potential to be uplifting and enjoyable.
If you’re underground with unreliable phone service, it’s the perfect time to close your phone and set your intentions for the day, or contemplate your existence, your hopes, and your dreams. I’ve tried a lot of different train rituals and while I’ve been awful at committing to one, I’ve decided there’s nothing wrong with switching it up. Some days I journal, others I start new writing projects, sometimes I pray. Sometimes I look around to see what others are doing. When I see others journaling, praying, and reading, I become a part of a spiritual community of other sweaty New Yorkers all looking to add more meaning to their lives. If we can’t have the summers off to camp, canoe, and climb on things, then we can make the most of our daily travels to the places that financially sustain us, and we can focus on the journey.
Set meaningful summertime goals, but don’t drive yourself crazy
Embracing a goal-setting mindset is the final admittance that the carefree summers from your childhood are gone, and that’s okay! Letting go of my youthful summers allowed me to start crafting bucket-lists with the potential to turn into goal-lists. Summer denotes a time period where it feels okay to let oneself go, to stay in bed longer, to stay up too late. But I don’t think summer should be a time to ignore our responsibilities and let the sink overflow with dishes.
Adulthood is a seesaw, a careful balancing act that they say takes a lifetime to master. Working throughout the summer is a great test for the self. Summer always reminds me how precious my time is and how much I desire to use it properly, to save it for important things! In Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh, it says “The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.”
This year I’ve chosen to dull the anxiety that comes with the desire to have an amazing, life-changing summer. Working through the summer isn’t a waste, it’s an opportunity to grow. There shouldn’t be pressure or expectations. Choose one or two goals, keep them specific and meaningful. I want to call my grandmother around dinner time everyday, I want to drink water in slower sips and focus on how it feels going down my throat, I want to spend more time studying my religion. I see the summer as a time to start, but by no means does it need to be a time to finish.
I’ve found that many of the articles about summer time err on the light hearted and shallow side. I believe we have tremendous power to infuse our summers with meaning and joy regardless of our day jobs and mundane work schedules. Give yourself permission to have the uplifting summer you want. It belongs to you, even if it doesn’t seem like it does.
Originally from small town Ontario, Emily Zimmer is a passionate creator with a love for writing music, poetry, and stories. She enjoys philosophy, coffee, and finding beauty in urban settings. Emily currently resides in New York City.