My emotional cycle during summer break repeats predictably each year

April 18, 2024 — by Angela Tan
Graphic by Angela Tan
My brain cycles through the same emotions each summer.
As someone who can’t be bothered to max out my summer break with nonstop volunteering, college programs and jobs, I experience intense phases of euphoria, anxiety, determination and hopelessness every summer.

Every year around the beginning of June, I spiral into an emotional mess. While I am usually a very sentimental person and will scream over a cute baby or burst into tears after a difficult physics test, the looming expectation of summer makes me want to party through midnight, crawl into bed and conquer the world at the same time.

The day school ends, I experience a sudden rush of happiness. Every burned out student probably knows the euphoric feeling of stepping out of your 6th period final, mentally disposing of useless information and feeling your backpack becoming infinitely lighter. My entire personality transforms: I start chatting with people I’ve never talked to before and have a newfound appreciation for all my teachers — even the grumpy ones.

The first week feels like life is dusted with pink glitter and powdered sugar. Each morning when I wake up to natural sunlight instead of my sarcastically optimistic ringtone, I experience a stunning revelation that life is amazing, a thought that would never cross my mind during the school year. The endless stretch of possibilities for the 67 days of break ahead excites me, and I shimmy in delight at the fun hobbies I can resume now that school is over.

After living in this brief euphoric state, Week 2 of summer arrives and I suddenly feel a looming horror of going cold turkey from grueling math problems and late-night English essays. Only one thought permeates my mind as I lie in bed watching Instagram reels and true crime videos: What do I do for the rest of summer break?

Pressured by seeing all that my productive friends are doing and feeling as if I’m wasting my free time, I open Google Docs and design a comprehensive schedule for my day. My plan is to wake up at 8 a.m., take a walk outside, do a healthy stretch, eat breakfast, read a book, spend time with family and “study for next year.” I suddenly feel extremely determined to become an academic weapon for the following school year.

Unfortunately, my organized schedule barely lasts for a week. Part of the problem is in the daily morning walk; I usually prefer to begin my day by roaming around the house and being useless. The other issue is that while I bookmark hundreds of tabs for math and chemistry on Khan Academy, I forget to sit down and complete the lessons. 

After a bit of moping, Week 3 begins with my parents suddenly reminding me of the month-long family vacation to Asia that we planned four months ago. I get slightly furious at them — they should have told me earlier so I had time to be productive before the trip! However, I love flying internationally and have so much fun trying new foods and seeing new sights that I forget about life back at home.

Before I know it, the calendar reads August 1, and I’ve spent the last few days in my bed, suffering from my annual summertime cold and wondering how the days passed by so fast. Feeling incredibly depressed from the summer cold I have managed to catch and my lack of productivity, I decide to hang out with my friends because it’s impossible to get any studying done in such a short time! 

After summer finally comes to a halt, I find myself back on campus. I take one look at the drab gray buildings and sigh. Although the stress of my courses is creeping up again, I have a rising spark of hope that I might enjoy school a little more this year.

Tags: break, summer
13 views this week