As the days wane and the workload waxes, even the cheerful smiles of the holiday season cannot stop the feeling of isolation for many people during the winter months.
For most of my friends, the sight of the sunset at 5 o’clock, barren trees and empty streets is depressing, perhaps indicative of their seasonal affective disorder.
Yet, I cannot relate to my friends’ wintertime blues. Though some people feel isolated during the colder months, I couldn’t be happier.
However, this joy isn’t year-round. I always feel especially gloomy and unmotivated during the summer.
May through August, I tend to hide behind my phone. As the sun sets later and later, leading up to the summer solstice, each minute creeps by slower and slower.
I first recognized these changes in my moods in elementary school when I struggled to find a close-knit group of friends. I always dreaded the first day of school in August. While most girls worried about what outfit they would wear to impress their crush, I stressed about what table I would sit at for lunch.
I never had a best friend to save me a seat. While I was surely not alone, I still felt ostracized.
Without a consistent friend group, I did not look forward to summer because I had no one to hang out with outside of school.
Throughout middle school, high school and even college, I found it difficult to branch out to new people because of my social anxiety. When summer rolled around, while my peers celebrated, I was disappointed because I knew I’d be spending it alone.
Whenever I’d scroll mindlessly through my Instagram feed over the summer, I’d be dominated with jealousy of the large cliques posing for a group picture at the beach. Unable to take my eyes off of their beaming smiles, I associated the number of girls in the photo with their popularity and happiness.
I longed for a friend group to go on adventures with during the summer, too.
It became impossible for me to look past popularity because I felt the constant need to fit in with the status quo. While the summer gave me an opportunity to take a break from school, I did not take a break from social media.
I was too busy worrying about validation and instant gratification instead of caring for myself.
This summer was different, though. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, crowded beaches and parties became a thing of the past. When everyone was quarantined inside their homes, including me, I began to feel a sense of relief. I didn’t feel so alone anymore when I was laying in bed doing nothing because I knew most people were doing the same.
Being most content between October and March, I counted down the days until it was finally cold enough to wear my winter jacket and leggings again. This year was no exception.
Winter has always been my favorite season. I feel a rush of nostalgia when I see snowflakes falling from the clouds or smell the scent of peppermint.
When the temperature begins to drop below freezing, my thoughts are no longer consumed by the beach trips and campfire parties I won’t be attending. Instead, I become engulfed in my school work.
Staying focused on my work has always given me a distraction from the outside world. Even as I sit at my desk typing this essay, I feel disconnected from the never-ending peer pressure of social media.
Looking back at previous summers, I can only remember the painfully long, humid days and unbearable allergies that come with it. Although going to my house on Long Beach Island, New Jersey with my family gives me joy, the fun weekends don’t overcome my summertime sadness.
I hope that one day I can conquer my social anxiety and enjoy summer like most other people. But for now, I will continue to remind myself that having the biggest friend group is not the most important goal in life.