She was running towards the mist. She took pictures, videos, doing everything she could do to preserve that moment. She sang songs from the 90s – Hoobastank, Simple Plan, Westlife – and drank beer as she ate burnt up mushrooms in front of the campfire. She was awoken in the middle of the night by elks. She went paddle boarding and kayaking in 6 degrees weather. She saw Amish carriages, smelled the breeze of pine forests and heard the howls of wolves. This summer, she felt a river flowing beneath her skin. She went 14000 kilometers away from home. She threw herself in a brand new environment. She met people. She made friends. She found soul mates. She discovered a tenacity in herself. She grew up.
And that girl is me. It’s crazy how it’s only been a month ever since I arrived in Bozeman, Montana. I feel like I’ve changed so much. I’ve found parts of myself that I never knew existed. I’ve found people who lust the comforting embrace of nature as much as I do. I’ve been constantly satisfying my growing wanderlust. Everything that happened this summer was perfect, utterly surreal.
Summer to me is about grabbing life by the balls. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about summer that makes me feel so courageous. I think the whole point of Summer is yes, the adventures, the places we go, and the pictures we take, but I think it is so much more than that. It is a time to experience life.
Living in Malaysia, where it’s summer basically all year long, it never made that much difference to me what summer was. For me, it was always a Western concept. Personally, summer represents not a season, but a period of discovery.
I have always been a bit afraid of creating my own adventures. I always make up excuses for myself, like “I don’t have time” and “I don’t have money”.
So my utmost favorite thing to do during summer became re-watching all my favorite movies. One of them was “Into The Wild”. When I watch these movies, I always feel as if the characters are speaking to me. There was a part in the movie where he looked right at me and said, “If you want something, reach out and grab it”.
It was a funny thing that happened because my perception of an “adventure” almost instantaneously shifted and I realized that just like that shift, everything in life was a perception and it could be changed. Suddenly, I saw that an adventure isn’t about the money or going to expensive places. It’s a simple thing really. It was about me deciding to get out of my comfort zone and not making excuses for myself by making an effort to meet different types of people, not just college mates. Creating a whole spectrum of friends, from young to old in order to share with and to gain knowledge from.
An adventure then became everything I was doing in life. It made me so happy because I felt so open. I started to have conversations with people who held a PhD in something or the other. They would listen to me which made me realize that yeah, I do have a voice. I would have conversations with 5-year-old kids too with the realization that I can become a child again, in terms of perspectives. I’m not Benjamin Button.
The only thing limiting ourselves is ourselves. It was a pretty beautiful revelation. I mean, it was something I knew, but something I had to discover on my own. So, this summer for me was not a discovery of a place, instead it was a discovery of myself. In doing so, it has basically extended my summer to not just a period of time, but summer being all the time. I learned to be courageous, adventurous and never being afraid to do something a little different.
I sincerely believe that everything happens for a reason. By not landing an internship over the summer, I was given the opportunity of freedom to travel and head home after 9 months of being abroad.
At the very beginning of summer, I was lucky enough to be able to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles, followed by New York City and London. After a month’s worth of traveling, I buckled up for a 14 hour plane ride back home. Everything seemed the same, but there were details here and there that reminded me of my absence. Nevertheless, it felt amazing to be in my own bed, to have the luxury of having my personal space as well as to have my mom cook and do my laundry. It was bliss. You really don’t realize how good you have it until it has been taken away from you.
Time flows as it usually does in a blink of an eye. I was kept on my toes with a summer online class, a part-time job at Marks & Spencer, family dinners, vacations to Perhentian and Krabi, adventures with friends, and time to myself. Being home refreshed me as over the past two semesters, I started losing a sense of self. I would spend my days in a daze, never feeling much on an emotional scale. Rather, I was living day by day, never really caring much about anything but doing well in school.
This trip back to KL was very much needed. I realized that all I needed was to step away from my current environment in order to view it from a bigger perspective to detect what was truly bothering me. I now know. This semester is different and it’s going to be a good one. I’ve learnt from past mistakes and I’m much, much wiser now. As Drake says, I’m on to better things.
Tatiana Sta Maria
I think one thing that summer has taught me was to look at things in terms of absolutes rather than relatives.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of measuring your own development in terms of someone else’s progress. I found myself consistently comparing myself to other people over the summer. It certainly didn’t help that a good number of my friends had either found internships in the United States or flown back to Malaysia to complete their internships. I felt like I hadn’t done anything of significant value over the summer and that nagging feeling proved to be excessively bothersome.
I believe this feeling of ineptitude resonates heavily with everyone. However, one thing I’ve realized is that everyone has different starting points. It really shouldn’t be about trying to outrun someone else who already had a head start. Instead, it should really be about how much distance you’ve managed to cover. In essence, it should be about your progress on your own terms.
And sure enough, things did start picking up once I hit my second semester. I was accepted into a research program and I found a professor who’s willing to have me work in her lab as well as (possibly) involve me in several of her publications. I’m a firm believer in self-fulfilling prophecies – if you want something, go get it.
And with that, I hope everyone is able to put their inner critics on mute (at least for a little while).
Feature image by Adrienne Yap.