I was once told that you grow the most as a person the summer after your first year of college. I am now finished with my third year of college, and each summer I think I grow more than the last. But I remember my first summer after college. If I weren’t leaving in two weeks for London, this summer would look very much like that summer.
I spent my summer working in the kitchen at the nursing home. I would cook meals and wash dishes. I would ask old ladies if they wanted coffee and try to remember not to accidentally give any Seventh Day Adventists scalloped potatoes and ham. Sometimes we would not have the right ingredients and I’d have to make it work—sometimes it was as easy as using cream of celery soup when the recipe called for cream of mushroom other times, I’d have to make something completely different, but either way, I’d make it work. Because, like Tim Gunn tells us, you have to make it work.
I would run into former high school classmates, some I’d smile and hug. Others have since unfriended me on Facebook. But I threw up my grudges when I threw up my graduation cap. I let go of the times that people hurt me. As we all continue to scatter into different places in the world, though most are still in the tri-state area, we all make choices that lead us to different places.
That was the summer I was dating a guy who lived in Colorado. The relationship suffocated not because of the summer heat, but because of the miles. The miles held us apart like positive and negative ends of a magnet. Always trying to connect them, but they were pushed apart. My birthday is during the summer, but that day he never said happy birthday. He never even talked to me. We grew as separate people; probably both always knowing it would never work out with neither of us making it a priority. In a relationship, I’d always just wanted someone who would fight for me, and he wasn’t the one who would. So it ended before I would head back to college in the fall.
I am back at the nursing home this summer, working shifts before I leave. I put on my hairnet and wash the same dishes, asking old ladies if they want tea or coffee, running back to the kitchen to grab a glass of milk or sour cream. I am wearing the same scrubs and tennis shoes, but I’ve come a long way since my first summer after college.
Maybe it was not the summer I grew the most, but I grew enough to help me stand on my feet the summer after—also known as the first summer I spent away from home. Now here I am, about to embark on my first summer spent in a foreign country. The air conditioner in my home turns on, the piles of clothes rise in my bedroom, and I take a deep breath. Sometimes growth hurts, but I cannot go back to yesterday. Like Lewis Carroll says, I was a different person then.
And I’m so glad I’m continuing to grow.