Growing up, my parents always placed a lot of emphasis on spending time with family. My summers were spent visiting family, extended family, friends, and otherwise vacationing. There was no time to do anything other than visit and socialize and do things with family. I generally came out of it so tired that going back to school was a relief.
This all changed once I started college. The summer after my freshman year, I decided it was high time for me to be a responsible adult and that the best use of my time would be to take summer classes. So I spent my summer days in lecture and in lab, and came home at night to tearful parents besot by nostalgia. “It’s just like it was before you left home,” my parents declared frequently, and I began to worry that they might get used to this sort of thing. So I made it easier on them and spent as much of my following breaks away from home as I could.
This summer, however, I soon realized that while responsibility in academia was all well and good, I suddenly had financial strains on me that my parents could no longer help with, and summer classes were not an option. What had seemed like a small fortune of a few hundred dollars, good for meals and textbooks for months and months, had rapidly trickled away and been drained by rent and bills. I needed to work.
I sent out job applications here and there, I called in favors and connections. For every form I filled out that asked me, curiously, why I was seeking employment there, I wrote “INCOME” in order to be the most honest. And it worked. I got a job.
Working at a retail store is not bad as far as jobs go. Every morning they hold a store meeting in the back to motivate the employees, who are called associates because everyone has a share in the company. The meeting always ends with the store cheer. “Gimme an L!” someone yells, and we all drone back the necessary letter. “Gimme a squiggly!” and then everyone does some kind of shimmy. It is inspiring to watch.
The company is also very family oriented. They are very keen on the customer getting everything they need and like to remind them in case they forgot anything by suggesting items on their TVs. They announce things like “It’s already grilling season, so remember to pick up ketchup for your burgers!” Before I began my career in retail, I did not know that “grilling” was a season. Now, I know.
The latest display is a Hannah Montana setup, where they’ve decided to play DVDs of the show to remind customers to buy DVDs and clothes for their little girls. Conveniently, the TV is set up across from my department, so I get to watch TV at work. Inconveniently, they only play one DVD, so I end up watching the same three episodes for eight hours straight.
I’ve made a lot of friends, though; like Fran, the cashier who taught me how to calm down angry customers and how to use a register, and Carmen, who tells me about all sorts of superstitions and swears she’s quitting every night. There’s John, the cart guy who checks up on me and says hi every night; Mike, the other cart guy who saw the Hannah Montana exhibit and promptly curled up into a fetal position in the middle of the floor; and Louis, whose first words to me were “Welcome to the family!”
So, my point: You might not know what you’re doing with your time this summer. Maybe you’re like me and you’re working a job you might not have wanted at first, or maybe you’re trying to get a head start on classes. Maybe you’re spending time with family, or maybe you’re vacationing yourself to exhaustion.
But whatever you’re doing, enjoy it. Be generous with your time, and patient with the people you meet. They might just be your new family. And as my good friend Hannah Montana’s been telling me, “Life’s what you make it, so let’s make it rock.”
So rock on, 2014, and welcome to the family.