What I’ve Learned This Summer

I may be in the in-between spot before graduate school and just after undergraduate, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop thinking academically. It must be in my blood.

  1. Walking is truly the best exercise, meditation, and form of transportation. I hope this doesn’t change in the cold Toronto weather next year.
  2. I like working in rooms and buildings with windows. If I can at least glimpse what’s going on outside, I feel more alive. If I can go outdoors for my breaks, to soak in the Vitamin D and breathe real air, I feel even more energized.
  3. Endings don’t have to be haunting. They can simply be alive in the background as the bright, final pae of the last chapter. I can flip back to revisit it at any time. And smile.
  4. The people wo love you will put up with you when you’re cranky and unresponsive. In fact, they will seek you out and make sure you break past the crustiness and tired to tell them about the other beautiful, happy things going on in your head. I knew this from previous summers, but I learned more how to appreciate this in the moment instead of waiting to look back on it in hindsight.
  5. It really does matter who you work with. But being a writer is a blessing: any obnoxious co-worker or boss becomes a character, someone from which to glean inspiration and life lessons.
  6. Not being perfect and not trying is a good way to relax. For me though, it takes practice.
  7. It’s just as much fun to read the right nonfiction books as it is to read plays and fiction. Who knew? Even more crazy, who knew that I’d spend time craving poetry this summer?
  8. Reconnecting with old friends does not have to be painful. Sometimes it can show you that you have grown to have even more in common. Other times it can show you that it was right to move on. Either way, it’s good to revisit. Or at least, it’s life.
  9. Family is important. It hurts that my life path keeps drawing me away from the parts of the country where they live–
  10. –but on the other hand, it helps to have to be independent. When my family is thousands of miles away, or even in another city just 3 hours away, it makes me stand up for myself in ways I never thought possible. I use them as a crutch too much.
  11. The Internet and even my favorite, letters, can never replace the joy of sitting across from the real person at a table. This is why it pains me to move to a city even farther away from my college friends. But the future beckons . . .
  12. In a similar vein, reading blogs about writing and theatre (while great and inspiring) isn’t the same as conversing directly with another writer or theatre creator. There’s an energy that is tangible. A spark that radiates between two people as we share the same deep passion, the same blocks, the same power of creating something out of nothing and battling the empty page. I have to keep finding new ways to engage with these communities. Writing may be a “solitary” act, but writers (even introverted ones) cannot be left alone at every stage of the process.
  13. My friends are all experts. Okay, not really, but when I’m with them they remind me that there are cool things to know about engineering, Ethiopia, Children’s Literature, Chopin, optometry, coffee, non-profit work, genealogy, et cetera. It’s so easy for me to get hyper-focused in the few things I want to deeply study that I forget that learning about other subjects will enrich my life.
  14. Everyone, no matter his or her age, can learn something from attending story time.
  15. Snail mail is worth more than emails. Why? Because it can show up just when you least expect it and make your day. Yes, I’m sure it happens the other way around, where it ruins your day, too. Recently for me, newly arrived envelopes and packages have shown me that my friends and family believe in me. They care enough to put together a package of goodies or to buy a stamp to send me their words of encouragement instead of scribbling them on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc.
  16. Sometimes you have to stop reading advice and stories of other peoples’ lives in order to live your own.
  17. The dog is probably going to throw up no matter what. A little disgusting, I know, but think of it like the bug and windshield metaphor. Life doesn’t always give you a way to avoid the mess, just a way to clean it up.
  18. Attitude is key. My mom told me this at the beginning of the summer, but I couldn’t quite believe her until I tried ignoring my own attitude for a long time. But when preparation for the move to Toronto and starting graduate school felt like it was spiraling out of control, I learned that I could maintain one thing: the way I responded to everything around me. It seems so simple, and yet, like most of life’s essential lessons, it’s something that’s easier said than done and something that must be learned over and over again.
  19. Birthdays in the post-Pinterest world tend to revolve around food. And for special occasions, I can forgive myself for that. 🙂

This is by no means a complete list. I would love to keep adding to it, but I think it’s time to say thank you for every lesson completed and focus on applying them. The new year in my life has officially begun. I’m Toronto-bound in less than a week. Wish me luck!


About austinausten88

Playwright in love with Classic films, afternoon tea, and Noel Coward. She recently graduated from Rice University. In the fall, she will be exchanging her English major undergraduate status for that of Theatre & Performance Studies graduate student.
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