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Four Years at the Mount

Summer Dreams

Work & Leisure

Michael Kenney Jr.
MSN Class of 2019

(6/2016) In a culture windswept by social media and movie marathoning, I suppose my laborious summers have been pretty unorthodox. Nevertheless, summertime is continually the capstone of my year, and while my family typically treks on rustic vacations full of símores, swimming, and lagging cell phone service, our 2014 summer vacation at the Grand Hotel was an exquisite twist in time and culture.

Can a regimented summer also be a relaxing summer? Although it may seem paradoxical, my regimented summers are contingent on genuine leisure. The term "leisure" is too often confused with "laziness." While laziness neglects responsibility, genuine leisure comes as a consequence of fulfilling a responsibility. In Book X of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle famously writes, "we work to have leisure, on which happiness depends." In other words, you cannot enjoy rest until you have invested in work. My summers testify to Aristotleís statement.

My parents have never sympathized with my ambitions to become a summertime couch potato. In a household of seven children, my siblings and I learned from an early age that "being bored" never sufficed as an excuse for them. Some chore could always use an extra hand: laundry needed folding, meals needed preparing, and younger siblings needed shuttling to various practices and activities. Nevertheless, my parents have encouraged us to capitalize on our summer free time. In particular, I utilize the summer as a time to invest in my athletics and education, which enables me to enjoy genuine leisure time. As a result, my summers analogize to skipping rocks upon a pond; each summertime goal ripples into unanticipated opportunities.

Summertime has always been a time of rewarding athletic and academic work.

Starting at about age ten, I would wake up at the crack of dawn each summer morning and ride my bicycle five miles to the nearest university gym. I shot hoops for hours on end until the varsity menís team arrived to conduct their practice. The team chatted on the sidelines and watched me until their coach arrived, cueing the start of their practice and the end of mine. After weeks of this routine, I became well acquainted with the guys on the team and their coach. They occasionally invited me to join in their drills and eventually asked me to assist with their summer camp for boys. Both opportunities were ideal ways to grow as an athlete and leader.

Since having "retired" from competitive basketball, I have become a track and cross-country runner, and the summertime has been a pivotal time for me to rack up mileage. I have gotten a job at my local running shoe store, which has enabled me to guide novice and experienced runners select shoes that best suit their running style and training regimen.

In addition to athletics, I have traditionally spent a large portion of my summer learning. I cannot begin to quantify the number of summer hours I have spent tucked away in a stuffy library, completely immersed in a treasure trove of books and audiotapes. I have always enjoyed reading, so cracking open a book at a poolside has never been burdensome to me either.

Last summer, I made a deal with my parents in which I committed to full-throttle ACT preparation and college hunting in place of a full time job. Luckily, I learned a lot, had fun, and ended up discovering Mount St. Maryís University in the process!

But my summers are not "all work and no play."

At the conclusion of each summer workday, my whole family gathers for a cookout dinner. Our dinners spill into lengthy conversations accented with a blend of music, laughter, and savory aromas. We then top off each evening with a family board game, film, or bonfire.

Although our day-to-day leisure elicits fond memories, our familyís annual summer vacations to Northern Michigan render the most remarkable fun. Our most extraordinary summer vacation occurred during the summer of 2014 on historic Mackinac Island. The island itself resembles the classic charm of a Norman Rockwell photograph, teeming with bicycle riders, horse drawn carriages, and quaint window shoppers.

While we were on the island, our family resided at the Grand Hotel, which has stood as the crowning jewel of the island for over a century. Staying at the ritzy mansion was an absolute dream. The interior of the hotel was decked in pastel colors, baroque furniture, and pictures of the international leaders who vacationed there. Croquet on the front lawn, strict dining room dress codes, and chandeliers in the ballroom -- every aspect about the extravagant atmosphere was worlds away from those of our suburban Detroit home!

My summer vacation on Mackinac Island was a unique experience. While we enjoyed the luxuries that the Grand Hotel offered, we also had opportunities to hike in the woods, stuff our faces with fudge (a hallmark of the island), and learn about the French and Indian War battles that took place there. Although Mackinac Island is only a few hours away from my home, our vacation was like a breathtaking step back in time.

So what are my grandiose plans for this summer? Nothing too exciting. I have to get my wisdom teeth removed, and I will train a lot for my upcoming cross-country season. I will be working at a shoe store again and will probably take a summer course. In terms of leisure, I plan on visiting some relatives in New York City and Chicago and then capping off the summer with a family vacation in Northern Michigan.

But who knows? Maybe, like skipping rocks, my plans will ripple into unanticipated adventures.

Read other articles by Michael Kenney Jr.