A person looking out on a bridge over a river


The Summer I Didn’t Wear My Retainer

If you had asked me 6 months ago if I was excited for summer, I would have politely nodded my head yes while silently screaming on the inside for you to stop talking. I was getting ready to go home for my sister's graduation and I found myself in one of those weird transitional periods when you realize a lot is about to change that you had always taken for granted.

My childhood home was no longer going to be my “home” in the sense that I was going to be living on my own for the summer in Minneapolis. It was starting to hit me how different my apartment in the cities was going to feel. My three roommates were going to be gone on their wonderful adventures in New York, Europe, and Boyfriendland. This summer was going to be different from any other summer I had experienced because I was not going to be living with my family. Instead, it was just going to be me and “the treehouse” (my apartment).

As I waved goodbye to my parents and all that was beautifully familiar, I remember thinking to myself, “Well this is it. Let’s make the best of it.”

And guess what? This past summer turned out to be the best thing to have ever happened to me. I've dubbed it as “the summer I didn't wear my retainer” for obvious reasons, but also because I was able to let my guard down and embrace whatever came my way. I branched out and built new friendships. I explored new parts of Minneapolis I had never seen before and I realized that being on my own isn't so bad. In fact, I loved it.

A person holding two things over their eyes

I got the chance to visit a dear friend of mine in Washington, D.C. which is when she informed me that Taylor Swift’s hit song at the time was not in fact “Blood Bath,” like I had naively thought, but instead “Bad Blood.” (Thank you for keeping me up to date on pop culture and eating Domino’s with me at 2am). I hiked 3 miles along the St. Croix river in flip-flops on the 4th of July and survived. I frequented the Tin Fish on Lake Calhoun. Eating their waffle fries and coming up with names for the hordes of dogs that pass by with my friends has become a favorite hobby of mine.

Now it’s November, and no one wants to be that person who brings up how great summer was as we near the end of the semester - a time that can be overwhelming, stressful, and exhausting. I've compiled some of my experiences and lessons from this summer that I hope will comfort you as you get closer to the end of the year.

If you have never seen “About Time,” I highly recommend it. Whenever I watch this movie (currently have seen it 8 times and counting), I’m reminded to slow down and notice the beauty in the little, everyday things.

“Part one of the two part plan was that I should just get on with ordinary life, living it day by day, like anyone else. But then came part two of Dad's plan. He told me to live every day again almost exactly the same. The first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing.” - About Time (2013)

Accept that people come in and out of your life for a reason. They have fulfilled their purpose in your life and cannot go where you are going next. Let them go and keep doing you.

You have a beautiful mind. Sometimes it is not going to make sense. Sometimes it is going to drive you crazy. Sometimes, it’s not going to want do all the things you have to accomplish. That’s ok. Don’t be so hard on yourself, you are doing the best you can and that’s all that matters.

Some days it can be really, really, really hard to get out of bed. I recommend setting your alarm to say, “It’s a beautiful day to be alive.” Cheesy, but true. This sort of worked when I had to get up at 5:30am the other day.

Happiness starts with you. You can’t depend on anyone else to make you happy. Take the time to get to know yourself because it’s you who you go to bed with and wake up to every morning. If you like who that person is, you’re doing just fine.

Keep making friends! This shouldn’t stop after freshman year. People are too great for you to cap off your list of friends after a certain number and call it good.

There is so much possibility ahead. It is more than ok to not be one of those people who lists off all of their aspirations in one sentence without hesitation. You open yourself up to more opportunities when you don’t know exactly what you want to do.

Be genuinely happy for others when good things happen to them and do not compare yourself to their achievements. Your time will come, too.

Life is all about having fun! Have fun today! Have fun everyday! Make life fun for others. 

Make time for others even when you think you don’t have the time.   

Be good to yourself. Find qualities you like about yourself. Remind yourself of them on your hard days, your bad days, your, “I don’t want to do life” days. You have a lot to offer this world. Don’t ever forget that.

Lastly, it’s not about the destination, but the journey. My voice professor John told me this my freshman year of college and it has stuck with me ever since. I was feeling lost because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, let alone study for the next four years. Three years later and I still find myself coming back to this quote when I get caught up in wanting to have every little detail of my life planned out. (John, if you are reading this, your kind advice has meant more to me than you will ever know). It can be so easy to be completely focused on the end goal that we forget to enjoy the present. Everyday is a gift.


It’s funny to think back on the beginning of this summer, when I did not want to leave the security blanket of my family and live by myself. But that’s the thing about the comfort zone. Nothing ever really changes there. There’s not much room for growth to happen. This summer taught me that when we feel the most vulnerable, the best things happen to us.

Oh and Mom: don’t worry, my retainer still fits. I tried it on last night.

P.S. : Don’t forget to dance. Here is a song I’m currently playing on repeat. I really love jamming out to the chorus: “Love more, worry less.”

Meg Kelly

Meg Kelly is a senior studying Strategic Communication with minors in Spanish and Design. In her free time she can be found listening to 22, A Million on repeat and watching Modern Family reruns. She thinks Goldy is the cutest mascot in the Big 10 and has been known to get super nervous whenever Goldy is in sight because he is her biggest crush. Go Gophs!

More Like This