The familiarity of fall and the end of summer break is creeping up, reminding everyone that a new school year is looming. Pastel crayon boxes, spiral notebooks, freshly sharpened pencils and trendy dorm décor fill the stores. College students gear up for a trip back to their stomping grounds, while young kids push their bedtimes just a bit later, cherishing the hot, sticky summer nights.
This is the August I’ve known for almost my whole life. For 20 years I’ve followed this routine. Now, though, I’m in unfamiliar territory.
Finishing grad school in May was one of my greatest accomplishments. With each final step – making the last edits to my thesis, passing my defense, receiving my diploma – I was so excited to leave the world of academia. No more homework. No more grades. No more nearly sleepless nights finishing a research paper. A world without school seemed like freedom.
Now I’m embracing that freedom.
I’m coming home from work with nothing but time on my hands. Suddenly there’s time to read books for fun, try new recipes, lay on the couch or go out after work. This is what I wanted.
But something is missing.
I’m not preparing myself for another semester of school, but I feel like I should be preparing myself for something. For life, perhaps. While I’m enjoying losing myself in a book, whipping up a fancy dinner or sinking into the couch, I’m realizing that this newfound freedom opens me up to so many more possibilities.
I want to volunteer – spend time helping others instead of focusing so much on myself.
I want to create – take an art class, write more stories, make a DIY for my apartment.
I want to move – train for a half marathon, dance at a studio, canoe on the Little Miami River, work up a sweat.
I want to learn – practice a foreign language, continue to study HTML and CSS, discover something completely random and interesting.
I want to explore – continue to find the hidden gems of this city, introduce myself to new people, go on a road trip.
I want to be present – break the addiction to my phone, smile at more people, listen and be engaged, look up instead of down, embrace the beauty of every day.
Finishing school is like finishing a marathon. Or a half marathon in my case. You work hard. You train your brain. You learn how to be successful, despite some bumps in the road along the way. You push through the finish line, eventually running on adrenaline and muscle memory. But when the race is over, you can’t just stop running. You’ll lose your muscle, your endurance, your strength, your determination.
The same is true for this post-grad life. Sure, I’m happy to come home and not have a pile of homework, but I need to keep training my brain. I need to stay inspired.
How do you stay inspired?
How do you train your brain?
How do you embrace your August freedom?