I wish summers were always seen as continuous periods for experiences like learning, helping, loving, self-recognition, rather than blocks in the year that need to be filled with exciting, ambitious plans and occupations that make you feel worthwhile, make you ready to tell a comprehensive summer story of events rather than thoughts and impressions.
This summer I decided to delete social media for a while. It came after too many hours half-spent with friends and half with screens, after noticing the small details in a different dimension that would preoccupy me and increase my insecurities, the dependence I was developing to false connections and approval and particularly after I realised that I was as excited about getting a photo from my uncle’s wedding than being in the actual wedding itself.
As an international languages student living in London, I am lucky every summer to be able to travel to my native Spain and Ireland, to France and this year even to St Petersburg for a language course. Yet I was and am weary of having allowed the last few summers of travelling to be tainted by the filling of just enough, but not too many, of those squares with photos of me enjoying my different plans, trying to tick those boxes of appearance, enough fun, enough variety. All the while academic guilt of a degree I love but fear whispered at the back of my mind, distorting my reading and everything. All these worries and insecurities preoccupy and distract, when I just wanted to sit, walk, swim, be and do it while realising just how much I have been able to experience and just how grateful I am too.
So that’s what I tried to do. Sit, walk, swim, be and, though it may seem like a simplification, be grateful. Insecurities plague me all the time, from am I good enough for this amazing family, this guy, these loyal adventurous friends, these travels, this degree, this or that language, to am I really doing enough to help, to change, do I belong in this movement, can I actually help or am I just being self-gratifying? But I want to and am trying to silence that insecurity, to see how important recognising my privilege is so as to listen and take every moment and feeling and be a part of the dismantling of this tension of insecurity and egoism that is causing so much destruction and inequality.
After three months of persistent tirades against it, I ended up downloading some social media again when I arrived in St Petersburg. Three weeks in this country I had studied so much about and that is portrayed so unwelcomingly, struggles with language fluency, a distance from home, and, above all, the desire to capture the creative and exciting atmosphere of the city led me to begin posting snippets of my life again. I also felt that though it was easy for me to ignore it from my comfortable position, I couldn’t negate the platform social media can provide for so many movements and voices, ones like this one that I also believe in and need myself. Yet a summer without it has left me with more of an experience of feelings and stillness, rather than plans and occupations; I now feel more confident to tackle the negativity and insecurity that comes with constant expectations, and the dominance of personality and individual over collaboration and empathy. I did not want this to be a pedantic summer story, nor one of a block of time spent on self-discovery, but one of a renewed determination to live continuously, in touch with the every day, open to life and what feels real, like the sense of peace of these sunsets.