community meaning of life

Coping with Summer

11:14:00 AMVeronica Buehnerkemper


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Classes have been over for almost a month now, and we are well into the summer.

Four months. One down, three to go.

For some, this stick-it-out-until-the-fall mentality gets them through the rocky transition. Being separated from friends, bored at home, or overwhelmed by the  job search that lies ahead of us can easily pull us into a beginning-of-the-summer rut. We question our purpose, goals, and friendships.

There are no longer casual meetings at the cafeteria, friends aren’t a text away when we’re in crisis mode and in need of a hug or a cup of coffee, and the extracurriculars that keep our lives busy cease to fill every spare moment of our time. It’s tempting to curl up on the couch with Netflix.

But in all honestly, how are we supposed to cope with this change and the often difficult start to summer?  Does summer have to be about survival?  We humans were meant to thrive, not just survive, right?
Having commiserated with several friends as we encounter this struggle, and after a good bit of reflection on the past semester, I’ve realized there are certain things I need to stay balanced, motivated and happy.
Purpose.

“If You’re not guided by a clear sense of purpose, you’re likely to fritter away your time and energy on obtaining the most tangible, short-term signs of achievement, not what’s really important to you.” - Clayton M Christensen, On Managing Yourself

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We all need a purpose, a goal, something to get us out of bed in the morning. During the school year we have many short term goals: go to class, study for a quiz, meet a friend for lunch.  We also have more long term goals: to learn, do well in our classes, and eventually graduate with a degree. When we do things that bring us closer to our goals, in this case academic success , we are able to find a level of satisfaction. In moving toward a goal or even contributing to a greater good, we find that a sense of purpose has a great impact on our psychological and emotional well being.

During summer, it may be difficult to see a purpose in what we are doing if we aren’t involved in structured things like classes, clubs or teams. It’s easy to wind up sitting on the couch scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook newsfeeds, wishing we were with our friends, whose vacations appear to be much more exciting than our own. On another note, going from 110mph during the semester to a full stop after our last final is a drastic change. Finding a purpose can help you avoid the emotional whiplash that comes with the screeching halt. It can be as simple as setting a goal for your summer: make a reading list, set goals for exercise, find a job, take a summer class. It doesn’t particularly matter what it is, all you need is something to work towards or contribute to and a passion to follow.
Community.

“Every human has the emotional need to feel loved. When this need is met, we move out to reach our potential for God and our potential for good in the world. However, when we feel unloved, we struggle just to survive” - Dr. Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages

tumblr_mq7s58AWoO1rud1uqo1_500.jpgSummer is a great time to rekindle old friendships and build new ones. But it’s also a time where it’s easy to lose touch with people. Friendship takes work. Community is an element of our lives that is easy to take for granted. When you see your closest friends on a daily basis, either in class, your dorm, or at meals, it’s easy to forget that friendship needs intentionality, and long distance friendship requires even more thought and effort.

Community doesn’t mean that you only stick to your friends at school either. Sure, it can be a challenge to build or find community during summer, but you can start small. If you’re at home, spend time with your family. If you haven’t already discovered this, you may find that your parents are actually interesting people with great stories and a lot left to teach you. As for friends, you may or may not know people your own age in your area , but there’s no rule against meeting new people! You can still keep in touch with people who are distant while cultivating new friendships, be it with coworkers, neighbors, or people you meet in passing. The bottom line is that people are important and community is important. An integral part of being human is our ability to relate to, learn from, and support one another. So find people and let them to change your life.

Spiritual Life.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

spiritualLife.jpgHow often do I forget this? I float along, putting God on the backburner while I focus on to-do lists, my Facebook newsfeed and attempts at a social life. But it doesn’t work. My life is turned inside out and no matter what I try, I can’t find peace, much less the motivation I need to get stuff done.

It may be summer, but that doesn’t mean God should be set aside with our schoolbooks. Our spiritual life is meant to go beyond a quick prayer before our finals, but it’s easy to forget about it once goodbyes are said and you’re on your way home. Keeping up with your spiritual life can make a world of difference during these few months, especially during difficult periods. Take time to pray, go to daily Mass, get involved in your parish’s young adult group if you have one. By keeping Christ at the center of our lives, we allow him to change our hearts and mold our lives into conformity with his will so as to grow in holiness.

Purpose. Community. Spiritual life. Summer can be a challenge, but I encourage you to push forward and pursue these three things! Living a fully integrated life is important in living a fully human life, and these three things will get you well on your way. Let your summer unfold before you, with all of its joys, sufferings and adventures! Allow summer to change you.

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Veronica Buehnerkemper

Some of my favorite things to do are dance, travel and coordinate events, as well as study mathematics and computer science.  After college, I would love to work as an event coordinator or high school teacher, and I plan to eventually move back to the country!     


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