As I clicked the ‘submit’ button on Canvas and turned in my final paper, it finally hit me. I had completed my freshman year of college. I sighed with relief. I had no more work. No more stress. No finals either. I was really done. I could finally lay on my bed all day, sleep in and not see the shadow of an upcoming assignment looming over my head.
Yet at the same time, a bittersweet, sentimental sort of feeling coursed through my body. Freshman year was done. Over with. I would never experience another freshman year in my life. It had flown by without me noticing. Going to Europe with a class. Pizza parties. Basketball games. I could not stop thinking about all the memories I had made, all the people I had met. Who would I hang out with over the summer now that all the new friends I had made scurried to move out of their dorms?
My friends from high school, including my brother, still had another month to go. After a year of working 24/7, I finally had the free time I needed.
Through training for a 10k race, rewatching rom-coms and starting a new book, I managed to keep myself busy the first few days. Yet like previous summers, I got bored pretty quickly. After only a short time, I did not know what to do with myself.
I found myself lying on my bed, eyes closed. My window was open – my room had already reached 80 degrees. I could hear my neighbors mowing their lawn. I could hear an array of musical notes as the kids next door practiced the piano. I wish I had learned the piano as a child — each note had a soothing, beguiling aura to it.
I opened my eyes and surveyed my room. I spotted the coloring book I had bought at Barnes & Noble only a month prior on my desk. Even though I was not artistic in the slightest, this particular coloring book appealed to me. Each coloring page had a number key, assigning a color per number. The more you colored, the closer you got to discovering what animal lay hidden among the numbers. How hard could it be to follow the recipe outlined right there for me?
I had only completed three pages so far: a peacock, a butterfly and a bug had emerged. 27 additional animals were still waiting to be found. Why not begin the journey now?
I got up to grab the dual tip markers I had received for my birthday off my desk and took a seat on my front porch. The sound of the lawn mower was much louder out here; my room was no longer muting it. It was sunny, one of the first warm, bright days after a streak of storms.
I opened the coloring book to page four. I squinted at the stark, white page in front of me. I saw a bunch of tiny hexagons with a number on each one. They were leading the way, encouraging me to bring life and color to the page. To summer.
[Related: COLUMN: Growing pains: life is a patchwork quilt]
Number one was black. Two a navy blue. Three an indigo. Eleven, the final color, was a light orange. With each hexagon I colored in, some leaves popped up in the bottom right corner. A hazy, orange sunset emerged. Two orange eyes stared back at me. A blue tail began to emerge. A primate native to Madagascar slowly began to materialize.
As the animal took form, I realized that I did not need to have my summer break figured out. Summer was a coloring page I was just beginning to complete. It was encouraging me to take my time, patiently waiting to be colored in.
Isabella Vesperini (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in journalism and minoring in Italian. She loves chocolate but hates Bloomington’s humid weather.