A while back, I wrote a post about challenging myself when I write. That got me thinking about how else I challenge myself in life, which got me thinking about what I do during my summer vacations. So I thought I'd tell you all 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. It began, I think, in middle school.
When I was in elementary school, I was very uncultured. I never watched TV or movies. I went online only rarely and with strict limitations. For music, I listened to Enya, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, and little else. I spent a lot of time reading, obviously, but I was resistant to anything popular, 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 lived in a sort of old-timey world in a lot of ways. I was probably one of the only ten-year-olds who regularly read the newspaper. (Not that I had much practical political awareness, either. But at least I had enthusiasm!)
I already knew that I wanted to be a writer, so by the time I graduated elementary school, I'd completed two novels, and thanks to a school project for the GATE program, I knew some about publishing. I decided, during the summer before middle school, to start sending out my second novel to publishers. That was my Challenge of Summer 2006: Begin sending out to publishers. It didn't accomplish much. 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 started on my summer challenges.
Seventh grade 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 few of my novels. In middle school, I was surrounded by people very much not like me, people who watched TV and talked on social media 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 much for swearing, but popular culture began to capture my interest. I wanted to know what the other kids were talking about and listening to and enjoying. It all intrigued me. Thus began the Challenge of Summer 2007: Catch up on pop culture.
I spent the summer watching Disney and Nickelodeon, which I was probably a bit old for already, but I was catching up. I watched Hannah Montana. I pushed my Internet boundaries a little. I spent a huge amount of time listening to pop radio, which helped me catch up on celebrities too. I became 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.
In eighth grade, I became more sensitive about my body image (which wasn't really a good thing, in the end). I also was feeling more pressure to get in shape athletically, even though sports had never been my area. P.E. has its effects! That brought about the Challenge of Summer 2008: Exercise and eat healthy.
I experimented with varied forms of exercise to figure out what I could handle. At that point, I was able to do some running in the mornings. I taught myself not to overeat all the time in response to stress and headaches. (I used to 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 on figuring 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 kept working on walking more normally, which was something I'd started a couple of years past. (Not only am I pigeon-toed in one foot, but I spent the first ten years of my life walking on my toes.)
I basically spent middle school trying to make myself more 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 that had been bothering me off and on throughout my life. I was just trying to make it through.
In summer 2010, I came up with the first challenge that I actually thought of as such. It was the Challenge of Summer 2010: Read the classics. I thought about what classic novels I'd heard of, the titles that immediately came to mind, and then I set out to read them. I made it through a whole bunch: The Scarlet Letter, Gone with the Wind, The Hobbit, and many others. That very next year, 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 that I went ahead and did that again for my Challenge of Summer 2011: Read more classics and other popular books. I think that was the moment I officially decided that I wanted to keep up with the literary world. Which, actually, is a very helpful thing, 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 our graduation, the town threw a big party for us, 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 the entirety of any more recent superhero movie. 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. Today, I'm a fan of 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 with my free time. I'm not a very social person, and my summer was going to be something like eight months, thanks to my decision to transfer. I'd joined Tumblr out of curiosity, and between that and the fact that many of my ASU college friends watched Doctor Who, I decided I wanted to give it a chance. I'd been a snob about that for a 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, as well as the two far-too-short seasons of Sherlock, selected episodes from 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. It's hard to imagine me without the shows now, even though a year ago, I hated the idea of them!
This last summer, I also did freelance editing, and I fostered kittens, of course. Like I said, it was eight whole months. 🤷🏻♀️
So, with all of that, it's clear 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 challenge this summer! I've already got some plans, but maybe we can come up with some other cool ideas. I'd love to hear from you!
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