By Jeff Pajak

Editor’s note: Jeff is a volunteer summer intern for Catholic Communications and member of Holy Family Parish in South Deerfield.

Challenge yourself

 At the beginning of January, many of us like to make a list of resolutions for the New Year. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm wears off, and before long we fall into the same old habits and routine. Ever wish there was some kind of half-way point or monthly checkup to keep you focused? I find summer to be an ideal time for renewing my resolutions, or making them more realistic. I also find that summer resolutions are a lot less intimidating than those I make for the New Year – the ones that have been all but abandoned by Groundhog’s Day. Telling myself, “I will exercise for a half hour, five days a week,” for an entire year brings out the quitter in me; but setting myself the same challenge for the months of June through August suddenly appears possible.

Exercise...you can do it

 This is why summer can be such a promising season: the days are longer and sunnier, the lost hours of winter are magically restored, and one can’t help but feel like anything is possible.

One thing I have learned from being a student, ironically enough, is that vacation time is a time for learning just as much as the school year is. Believe me, I enjoy lounging about on the couch like a vegetable as much as the next person. In fact, that’s exactly what I tend to do for the first week or so of every summer. But let’s be honest. After a while, doing nothing but staring at a television screen or computer monitor gives a bad headache. The goal is to keep your mind sharp and active during the infamously lazy season of summer, so don’t be afraid to vary your activities and try something new!

Reading is one of my favorite past times, so for starters, I like to choose at least one book which seems to have a lot I can learn from. Because of all the praise and recommendations it has received, G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy made its way to the top of my personal summer reading list, and the Apostle of Common Sense hasn’t disappointed me yet. Since I’m one of those people who forget any seed of wisdom obtained from a book a minute or two after I read it, I have established the inconvenient but worthwhile habit of keeping a journal at my side when reading. If I read a line I really like, I write it down in my reading journal and comment on it. This method not only helps me organize my thoughts better, but it also helps me to remember those wise or inspirational words which I would otherwise forget.

What are your thoughts?

Of course, not all your resolutions have to be the self-improvement type, like daily trips to the gym. More specifically, not all of your summer resolutions should feel like work. This is the summer, after all, and the wonderful weather should trigger much more than sporadic excursions to the beach. Why not have a picnic every week or two in your backyard, in the park, or on a hilltop? Bring your friends or the dog, or both, and don’t forget the ice-cold lemonade.

My picnic pal

 How about an early morning walk or bike ride? A great way to energize yourself at the start of the day, taking your two-wheeler out for a spin allows time for reflection and for planning the rest of your day. Plus, you never know what you might see. The other day, I spied some renegade chickens who had fled the coop after a powerful thunderstorm the night before.

Why'd the chicken cross the road?

Later, I pulled my bike over on the side of the road by the town river for a break, when my eye caught a trail in the woods on the other side of the road. I was quite the explorer when I was a kid, and stumbling upon an unexplored path waiting for me to discover it brought back old childhood memories and excitement.

Speaking of trails, why not go hiking? For Memorial Day, my parents and I went hiking up Mt. Tom.

Enjoying the view with my parents

 The pairs of chipmunks chasing one another and the butterflies fluttering about the path were not the only pleasures to be had. Along the way, we met a number of fellow hikers who, like us, had set time aside to enjoy the day-off outdoors. Just as we did, you’re likely to meet hikers who look like experienced professionals, hikers who look like first-timers, hikers who let you pet their cocker spaniels, and hikers who will kindly take your picture after you reach the summit. If you’re lucky, you may catch up to a party of parents and their prancing toddlers, filled with awe at all the sights to see. After spotting a group of circling turkey vultures along with another family of hikers, I was fortunate to overhear a young boy warning his father of the ways of nature. “Turkey vultures?” said the father to his son, “Mmmmm!” The boy earnestly replied, “No, dad! If you’re dead, they eat you!”

Flying with the turkey vultures

Perhaps you wish to learn the basics of a foreign language. Perhaps you’d like to make it to daily Mass more often. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to take up an instrument, or grow your own garden, or be able to pick out the summer constellations in the night sky, or master one of grandma’s old recipes.

Explore the heavens

 In truth, there is nothing stopping us from working towards our resolutions or beginning new hobbies anytime of the year. But sometimes summertime is the right time – the perfect time – for doing this. When we pull back the curtains or step outside and see the world coming into full bloom, it is hard not to be caught up in the rush of vigor and life all around us. So, Happy New Summer, good luck with your new summer’s resolutions, and don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it!

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