Summer’s end makes room for future plans

Adam Schoelz

As suddenly and quietly as some midnight killer, winter is upon us.  Cold winds and scattered leaves howl wistfully around frozen cars and people, merciless snow holds off until January.  Cowardly finals wait until the end of the month to spring on students all at once.  December is with us, and for better or worse, it’s the end of another year. It holds a certain bittersweet quality — it’s like the last  gasps of some dying man, reflecting on the wealth and tragedy of his life and labors.
And while that may seem a particularly morbid metaphor, I feel the reflection part is most important, as winter is the best time for it.  There is little time to spend outside in short days and cold temperatures, and thought takes up a larger amount of my time.  Idle hands may be the devil’s playthings, but idle minds are mine.
After a while of sitting inside and doing little, my mind inevitably drifts back to the scorching days of summer, naturally returning to the equal opposite of my current condition.  This summer, I decided to get off my rear and finally get a real job—so I became a lifeguard, with just a hint of irony.  I guarded at a little pool called Douglass Aquatic Center, which could comprise a lengthy story in itself, but there was one thing in particular that stuck with me.  The music.
I am not a music snob, nor am I what could be called culturally relevant.  I simply listen to whatever is on the radio. Douglass Aquatic Center’s radio definitely tuned to music of the ‘culturally relevant’ variety, with solid 4/4 beats and easy harmonies streaming out of Y107—the most popular radio station by far at that pool.  They played the same 5 to 10 songs on any given day, so needless to say I heard repeats, and repeats of repeats.  You can’t really listen to a song for that many times without listening to the lyrics, so eventually I had good portions of the songs memorized.
With this I realized two things.  First, pop music is fairly repetitive.  Second, pop music is fairly repetitive in themes.  Every song was about partying, dancing, sex—the whole hedonism of a generation contained in a few poppy rhythms and good beats.  Without fail, the songs held a theme of forgetting about tomorrow—live for today, they said, forget about what would come later.
This was problematic for me.  Not for the classic hey-you-kids-get-off-my-lawn reasons of praising sex and parties to elementary school students.  No, it was more born out of practical realism.  You can’t get a job partying, I thought, smug on my high, unimpeachable throne of life guarding power.  For every high at a party there is a hangover the next day, and life is no exception.  For a third party such as myself, it seemed simple that focusing on now—exclusively—was a dangerous, if fun, way to live.  It was all too precarious a position, too easy for the party to go wrong and morning to come and with it a splitting headache.
And that’s what was so scary when I realized ‘no tomorrow’ was my life. During the summer, there was no line of thought to my actions, no self discipline or plan over the entire period.  I realized that I had to have a plan—I had to know where my life was headed.  Over the summer I had done nothing real—what would I think when I looked back in a decade?
So as I sat, relaxing in a high-backed chair in front of my fireplace and sipping tepidly at a glass of hot chocolate, I confronted with the most terrifying question I’ve ever had to contemplate:  what am I actually supposed to do with the rest of my life?
There was, and is, no easy answer.  Life is long time, and it seems arrogant to make a choice about the rest of it before I’m even halfway through it.  But there I was, a junior in high school, facing what would be the most important choice in my life.  I had to stop acting with no plan. I had to think about the future.
It was an existential crisis in the truest sense of the phrase.  Did I really want to go to college? How did I want to live when I grew up?  What was I going to do with all that time?
I knew I wanted to go to college, and I had ideas about where to live, but to that last question I still have no answer.  But I am further along for trying.  I have decided that fear —that specific fear, the fear of failure that scares most people into accepting today as forever, was a barrier that had to be shattered in order to succeed.
In the summer I felt, but without emotion.  There was no meaning, the stars did not align.  I was swimming in a circle and running out of air.
Bidden or not, the future would come, and I decided to be proactive.  Rather than waiting for things to happen to me, I would be the initiator.  To live the life I wanted, to not drift into the toneless euphoria of a summer dream, I had to plan.
So plan I did.
By Adam Schoelz