When I was in middle school, I would spend the weeks leading up to summer vacation dreaming of that last day of school.
I’d daydream about my trips to Spain and Lebanon, where I’d travel every summer to visit my family. I’d recount to all my friends the stories of my favorite summer traditions and all the crazy adventures that my cousins and I had gotten up to in the past. I’d even conjure up unique ways of counting down the days, such as taping paper circles together that I’d later tear for each day closer to the holiday.
As I got older, I started to really grow into myself and summer felt a little different. Summer was no longer only about going crab hunting in the river with my cousins or going to the local park with my grandparents where we’d eat pounds of sunflower seeds.
Don’t get me wrong, I still did all of these things. But at a certain point, summer also meant being away from home, having to deal with college applications or courses, having to interact with people I’d usually never interact with and dealing with a lot of situations that I generally like to avoid. Although I continued to love the beautiful weather and the thrill of traveling, I quickly began to long for my more ordinary day-to-day life. In that way, summer and I began to develop a love-hate relationship.
As I said, I love traveling during the summer. After being at home for a while, I really look forward to a change — especially one that’s so familiar. While I was at college, this was especially important since I grew up in the Middle East, and I don’t actually have any family in the United States. Getting to travel meant that I’d be reunited with my friends and family, which was absolutely indispensable to me after being away for so many months. I only ever see my grandparents about once a year during the summer, which also counts for my uncles, aunts, cousins and other friends abroad. For that reason, the summer was always extra special to me, and I felt I had to cherish every single moment of it.
Yet, in high school and college, summer also meant being separated from my friends. It meant traveling somewhere that wasn’t really home. Although I’m half Spanish, spending a month in Spain every single year meant being confronted with my ongoing identity crisis. It meant being surrounded with people that experienced a completely different upbringing than me, with different values, different beliefs and a different style of living. At the end of the day, my home in Bahrain, where all my friends were located, was my actual home. It’s where I felt I belonged and where I felt comfortable being myself. When in Spain, I always felt like I had to be someone different. I had to be the Spanish girl. If I wasn’t, I’d be considered a foreigner in my own country.
Nonetheless, summer vacation was always a time when I would finally take a break. I’ve always put my utmost dedication into school work, and I always ended up feeling burnt out by the end of the school year. During the late nights and early mornings studying for finals or finishing assignments, I would always find myself fantasizing about the approaching summer. I really value the summer as a time to finally rest.
Contact Salma Sarkis at [email protected].