Leila Howland
April 20, 2013 4:00 am

There are about 4 summers in a girl’s life when she is grown-up enough to experience the freedoms of adulthood, but not so grown-up that she is burdened by responsibility. I call these seasonal sweet spots the “quintessential summers”, and generally they begin just after junior year of high school and end right before senior year of college. Old enough to drive, but not so old that you’re scheduling your own dentist appointments, they are sun-kissed morsels of time, ripe for adventure and romance. If you don’t have a plan for your quintessential summer, here are some ideas:

1. Pursue your passion. Never again will the world be so open to training you. Like fashion? Maybe you can fetch coffee for someone at Teen Vogue. Want to write movies? Maybe an LA talent agency will let you read scripts. I know, I know, they aren’t going to pay you and that sucks. It might even make it impossible. But since it’s only until Labor Day, ask yourself if there’s any way you can make it happen. Perhaps you can waitress on the weekends. Maybe you can sleep on your cousin’s sofa and subsist on tofu dogs and hummus. During my quintessential summers, my passion was acting and I longed to be an apprentice at the Williamstown Theater Festival. I never applied because of the expense, but my friends who did remember it as one of the most important learning experiences of their lives – one of them even credits his acting career with it, and he has his own TV show.

2. Find a way to travel. Traveling gets harder once you have year round employment, but your quintessential summers provide boundless opportunities to see the world.  You can study abroad through a university program, earning credits as you satiate your wanderlust. I spent one summer in studying in Italy, making progress toward my bachelor’s degree while taste testing gelato and writing poetry in an olive grove. Habitat for Humanity or Volunteers for Peace allow you to do good while you explore.  If you don’t fancy a trip abroad, you can get a job in a national park or a summer resort town. I worked on the island of Nantucket as a maid. Sure, I had to change beds and clean toilets, but I also lived with two fun British girls, spent every afternoon at the beach, and dated a hot bicycle thief. Well, I actually didn’t date him (he was a thief!), but the British girls told me he thought I was “fit”, and that was enough to inspire a half a dozen poems.

3. Take a chance in love. While you should make sure your bicycle’s under lock and key, be less guarded with your heart. I’m not saying you should hook up with a criminal as my friends from across the pond encouraged me to do, but summer is the perfect time to shake things up in the love department. It’s only a few months, so why not see what happens if you try a new approach? Always go for the athletic type? See what that cute geek down the street is up to. Hipsters always been your thing? Unsnap your fanny pack and check out a prepster for once.. If you usually play hard to get, maybe this the summer you’ll enjoy the thrill of the chase. If you’re used to being the seeker, kick back in the sand, slap on some SPF, and let yourself be found. There’s something about the sun-soaked summer air that stirs up the most unexpected romances — if you let it.

Tell me what you plan to do or have done during your quintessential summer in the comments!  I’ll select a commenter at random to win an advance copy of my YA novel NANTUCKET BLUE, about a quintessential summer on Nantucket (hmmm, wonder where I got that idea).

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