A while back, I wrote a post about creating challenges for myself when I write. That got me thinking about how else I challenge myself in life, which got me thinking about what I do on my summer vacations. So today I thought I'd tell you guys a little bit about how I challenge myself every summer.
My summer challenges started somewhat on accident. It's not until recently that I realized there was a pattern. They're generally cultural challenges, expanding my knowledge to get me into the world a little more. It began, I think, in middle school.
When I was in elementary school, I was very uncultured. I never watched TV or movies. The only music I listened to was Enya, Vivaldi, and Tchaikovsky. I spent a lot of time reading, obviously. However, I was very resistant to anything popular in the literary world, which I talked about a bit in an earlier post on book snobbery. I spent a lot of time crafting and cooking and baking, and I even knew how to crochet. (I've since lost interest in all of these things.) I probably would have been in love with the crafty side of Pinterest, except I didn't believe in the Internet either. I lived in a sort of old-timey historical kind of world, culture-wise. I was probably one of the only ten year olds who regularly read the paper.
I already knew that I wanted to be a writer, though, so by the time I graduated elementary school, I'd already completed two novels, and, thanks to a school project for the GATE program, I knew a lot about publishing. Not nearly as much as I know now, not hardly, but enough that I decided, during the summer before middle school, to send out my second novel to publishers. That was going to be my summer project, and that is the first one I recall doing as such.
So that was my Challenge of Summer 2006: Begin sending out to publishers.
It wasn't hugely successful, obviously. Since then I've learned many vital things, like that you need to edit your book before you send it out, and that literary agents are kind of important. But it was a good experience, and it got me jump-started on something I've been doing semi-continually ever since.
Middle school, seventh grade in particular, was something of a cultural explosion for me. I'd spent most my time in elementary school with just my little group of friends, playing imaginary games that inspired a number of my novels. In middle school, I was sort of forcibly surrounded by people very much not like me, people who watched TV all the time and listened to pop music and also swore. A lot. At first, I hated it, but after a while, it grew on me.
I still am not okay with swearing, and I have strong conservative-type morals, but popular culture really began to capture my interest. I wanted to watch TV so I knew what the other kids were talking about. I wanted to listen to music the other kids liked, some of which already spoke to me, now that I'd been forced into hearing it on the bus every day. I wanted to understand what life was like for them.
Thus began the Challenge of Summer 2007: Catch up on pop culture.
I spent the summer watching Disney and Nickelodeon, which, yeah, I was probably technically a bit old for at that point, but I was catching up. I watched Hannah Montana, all the reruns and the new episodes. I watched bits of varied Nick cartoons. I spent a huge amount of time listening to pop radio as well, which helped me catch up a bit on my celebrities as well as music. I became momentarily obsessed with High School Musical, followed by Pirates of the Caribbean.
It was a lot of learning in a very short time, but hey, that's what middle school's for. That, and bullies. Darn those middle school bullies.
In eighth grade, I became increasingly aware of body image, which wasn't really all that good of a thing, in the end, but I was a bit chubby at the time. I suppose a lot of kids are at that age.
That brought about the Challenge of Summer 2008: Exercise and eat healthy. I'd never thought about that before, not really, but that summer, I began experimenting with varied forms of exercise to try and figure out what I could do. At that point, I hadn't yet began developing fibro, so I was able to do some running in the mornings. I also spent a while teaching myself not to overeat when I was stressed. It used to be I'd eat half a gallon of ice cream every day when I came home from school.
I also worked on dressing more fashionably, on doing my makeup better, and I tried for a while to figure out what to do with my hair. I ended up giving up on the hair, but hey, I'm pretty good at makeup now. I also spent a while teaching myself how to walk more normally. See, I'm pidgeon-toed in one foot, and I spent the first ten years of my life walking on my toes. So that was an interesting process.
Basically, I spent middle school trying to make myself normal. And actually, I did a pretty good job.
I don't know that I had a challenge in the summer of 2009. At that point, I was struggling with some pretty severe anxiety and other mental health issues which had been bothering me off and on throughout my life. I was just trying to make it through then.
In summer 2010, I came up with the first challenge that I actually thought of as such. Challenge of Summer 2010: Read the classics. I thought about what "classic" literature I'd heard of, the ones that immediately came to mind for me, and then I set out to read them. I got through a whole bunch, The Scarlet Letter, Gone with the Wind, The Hobbit, and many others. Those are just the ones that stayed with me. That very next year, eleventh grade, I was in AP Lang and we read The Scarlet Letter. I felt like a genius for having already read it.
In fact, I liked it so much, I went ahead and did that again for Challenge of Summer 2011. I read more classics, along with a whole bunch of other popular books. I think that was the moment I decided, officially and finally, that I wanted to keep up with what was popular in the literary world. Which, actually, is a very helpful plan, if you want to be a writer. I also decided to reread all the books on my shelves, and rewatch all the movies I owned.
Then came senior year and high school graduation. The night of graduation, the town threw a big party for all the graduates, part of which was free admission to a movie. I decided to see The Avengers, since it was so popular at the time. I'd never seen any superhero movies in full before then. I'd just never thought about it. But after I saw The Avengers, my curiosity was piqued. So I decided on a Challenge of Summer 2012: Catch up on superhero movies.
I believe I wrote a blog post on the subject, since I started this blog during that summer as well. Basically, I watched a freak ton of superhero movies, most of which I quite liked. Today, I'm officially into watching superhero movies. Thank you, Challenge of Summer 2012.
My freshman year of college was very complicated and involved a lot of new experiences, but when it came around to summer, I wasn't sure what to do during my free time. I'm not a very social person, and even with all the work writing and editing requires, there's quite a bit of free time. Especially if your summer is going to be something like eight months, thanks to you deciding to transfer. I'd joined Tumblr out of curiosity, and between that and the fact that many of my college friends from that year watched Doctor Who, I decided I wanted to give Doctor Who a chance. I'd been a snob about that for a very long time as well.
From there, things developed into my Challenge of Summer 2013: Check out the BBC.
I ended up watching all the modern seasons of Doctor Who, twice and a half times through, as well as the two far-too-short seasons of Sherlock, selected episodes of the classic Doctor Who, and all of Merlin. It turns out I'm in love with British television, and I only discovered it thanks to my summer challenge. Actually, it's hard to imagine me without British television now. But ten months ago, I hated the entire idea of it!
So, with all of that, it's very clear to me now that I've got this pattern of summer challenges going on--and I want to continue it. With that in mind, I'd like to ask you for your ideas of what I can do as a summer challenge this year! I've already got some plans, but maybe we can come up with some other cool ideas too. I'd love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading, guys, and come back next time for a post on how point of view affects the way you look at characters.
Images via wallconvert.com, tes.com, stores.ebay.com, and moviepilot.com.
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