Hey kids, summer 2021 has officially started so I’m cutting right to the chase. Please listen up. I’m not your mom so perhaps you’ll listen to a stranger’s advice for more than eight seconds.
Get out there this summer, don’t sit and stare at a screen all day
You did not survive a pandemic to sit around most of the day binging Netflix, YouTube videos, or TikTokers trying on trendy clothes.
This is your summer…get outside and try something you’ve never tried before. Plant a garden. Go berry picking. Learn to ride a unicycle. Go fishing. Attend a minor league baseball game. Take a bus ride to a part of town you’ve never explored and walk around.
You did not survive a pandemic to stare at a screen in your room all night playing PS5 games until your vision is blurry and you could desperately use a shower. This is your summer…go to the library and find some great books. Write a letter to your great-uncle. Paint your bedroom a new color. Teach yourself to juggle.
You did not survive a pandemic to skulk around your house every day complaining there’s nothing good to eat.
This is your summer…learn to cook a few delicious dishes. Offer to do the grocery shopping for your mom. Bake your dad’s favorite brownies. Blend up the perfect fruit smoothies for your siblings.
You did not survive a pandemic to hang out solely with the same friends you’ve been hanging out with (virtually or in-person) for the past year – or the past decade.
This is your summer…find some new people to befriend. Preferably ones that don’t look just like you or think just the way you do. Strike up a conversation with the older ladies at the pool, or the man in the wheelchair at the park. Join a game of pick-up basketball with people you don’t know.
You did not survive a pandemic to feel bad about your old shorts not fitting anymore.
This is your summer…get moving. Dance, hike, swim, walk, try yoga or meditation. Or simply get comfortable with how your current body feels and looks and appreciate everything you can do and every way that you can move.
You did not survive a pandemic to whine about a summer school class or camp experience or “dumb” job.
This is your summer…expand your horizons. Learn a new language. Paint a canvas. Try your hand at archery or beading.
Be grateful you are learning a new skill, whether it’s submerging French fries into hot oil or bagging groceries or mowing lawns or babysitting toddlers. Get comfortable with interacting with rude people, kind people, and funny people. Smile at them all. Allow them to teach you how you will or will not behave towards others in the future.
You did not survive a pandemic to say that you’re bored.
This is your summer…volunteer at a food bank or a pet shelter. Go to the zoo. Visit a museum. Clean up a road or a park. Donate water bottles for the homeless. Raise some funds for marginalized people. Get angry about injustice and do anything you can to make your community a welcoming place for all.
You did not survive a pandemic to suppress who you really are.
This is your summer…to stop hiding and start being open and trusting. Embrace your nerdiness, your silliness, your difficulties, and your attraction to whoever you are attracted to. Stand up for yourself and communicate your truth with respect, maturity and strength.
This is why you survived a pandemic
You survived a pandemic to welcome each new day with optimism and with wonder at the world around you.
Appreciate human interaction. Appreciate your family members. Appreciate your health and food and shelter and music and art and science and love. Speak your gratitude out loud. Write your gratitude down in a journal or draw it in pictures. Stop to literally smell the roses.
Because there are now over half a million Americans who are no longer here to appreciate anything this summer. They are not here to experience joy or freedom or struggle of any kind.
That statistic might not truly resonate with you. Numbers that staggering are hard to grasp for anyone, and it’s easy to gloss over them or push them out of your mind when you’re young and healthy and concerned with normal teenage stuff. We get that.
But we hope you will acknowledge how lucky you are if you have the luxury of being bored this summer. Or of complaining that you have to deal with challenging customers at work. Or you don’t have the money to buy those amazing shoes you really want. Or that you’re mad that we won’t let you sit on your phone all day while the sun is shining, and the world has opened back up again.
This summer is full of opportunity
And there’s the real possibility that you don’t currently feel lucky or feel grateful for your life. Being a teenager really sucks on some days. We remember that, deep within our souls. But we, your parents, understand that you don’t yet have the wisdom and perspective to sit back and think of this summer as having the potential to be some of the most memorable days of your lives.
Young people everywhere are thirsty for reconnection and joy. This summer is brimming with possibility.
So ride that roller coaster. Have your first kiss. Lie in the cool grass and count the stars. Savor that ice cream cone or buttery corn on the cob. Laugh at dogs with their tongues hanging out of open car windows. Make eye contact, smile widely and just say hello.
Don’t wait for something exciting to happen in your life. Make something exciting happen in your life.
This is YOUR summer. Please don’t waste it. Because you survived a pandemic.
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