06/07/2012 09:11 am ET Updated Aug 07, 2012

Learning to Take a Break

A few weeks ago, I asked my friends what their summer plans were. Considering that this is the last summer before college, I expected answers like vacation with family, hang around by the pool and simply relax. But instead, I heard things like "get a job", "take a college class", or even "get a job and take a college class." As someone who has spent their last four summers volunteering, working, attending summer programs and working on summer assignments, I understand wanting to be productive over summer.

But hearing those responses from my friends made me think about how much our society commends workaholics and how we strive to always have our schedules as packed as possible. Somehow, we've come to believe that success means giving up sleep, family time, etc. And while I know that achieving your goals certainly requires time, effort, and sacrifice, I've started to wonder why always working and being busy is such an admirable thing. Isn't success possible without missing out on Friday night hangouts and lazy Sunday afternoons? What's wrong with needing a break? Why can't our planners have empty slots? And what is so great about constantly running from one place to the next? We always think that classes, jobs and extracurricular activities are great learning experiences (which they can be and usually are), but we overlook the fact that letting ourselves relax can also help us reach realizations.

After four years of working hard, filling up my planner and running on coffee instead of sleep, I decided to let myself just chill out this summer. Initially, I justified this to myself by saying that I had already earned college credit over the past two summers or reminding myself that I have kept a part-time job for over a year. But, recently, I realized that I shouldn't have to justify taking a break over summer vacation. After working hard for four years to graduate with honors, I don't think I need to explain why I deserve to sleep in, catch up with friends and put away my planner.

So even if you're set on getting a job this summer, taking some classes, or doing both, I encourage you to find some time to just relax, sit back and breathe. As important it is to get things done, don't forget that there's a reason why the quote is "Work hard, play hard," not just "Work hard." And, remember, it's called a break for a reason -- don't forget to take one.