By Abbey Bates, For The Miami Student

This summer, like every other summer, it seems, was a crazy whirlwind. I packed up all of my essentials (many of which are not essential at all) and, with the help of my mother, stuffed it all into our two vehicles. I said goodbye to my family, friends and my new pup for the summer, and together my mom and I set off to begin my Charleston adventure.

It was a moment I had been picturing since I accepted the position as an editorial intern at Charleston Magazine for the summer. It was sort of a dream come true to land an internship in such a great location. Whenever I pictured my summer in the South Carolina Lowcountry, I imagined a glamorous office, making instant friends with my fellow interns, and having endless fun by the beach, pool, or exploring downtown Charleston.

But, this is real life. So, of course, nothing is perfect. I often let my imagination run wild when it comes to traveling to new places or trying something new. I build up all these wonderful little expectations that usually go left unfulfilled. In my mind, I am always brave, confident and ready to travel anywhere.

In reality, I was stressed and nervous about packing, unpacking, starting a new job and controlling my finances. Instead of going to work every day in a fancy high-rise building, I was in a small, cramped, crumbling office. I made a few connections but I spent most of my time alone. I enjoyed the beach, pool and exploring downtown when I could, but found myself working a part time job most days when I was not at the magazine.

I am hardly complaining, though, because this summer was one that I will never forget.

Instead of all my self-important, inflated wishes and expectations being fulfilled, I learned many more valuable things beyond my work for the magazine. 

I learned how the salty ocean air or a great sunset could turn any bad day into a great one.

I learned that it was OK if there was more sand than furniture in my apartment. That I could manage with less and be happy about it.

I learned that there are some really awesome people in Charleston, at the magazine, at Copper Penny Shooz where I was blessed to work with the kindest staff and everywhere else in between. That even after a tragedy strikes, as with the horrific shooting that took the lives of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown, people can still ban together to show how hatred and evil can be overcome by grace and goodness.

I learned to not let the fear of doing something alone stop me from doing what I want to do, because that only ends in regret. I also learned that while it’s important to get up and be productive, you don’t need to feel guilty for taking some time off for yourself.

Most importantly, I learned what life has been telling me time and time again: that letting go of your expectations is the best way to live in the moment and appreciate your surroundings.

I remember one night while my mom was still in Charleston helping me get settled she asked me what I did at work that day. I was about to tell her when she said, “Wait! Tell me later at dinner.” I tried to argue that it wasn’t worth waiting to tell, as I hadn’t done anything particularly interesting.

“This is all we have,” she replied. “These are the crumbs of our lives!”

She was somewhat joking, and I laughed at the time. But that sentence stuck with me. I realized it’s true: our whole lives are just made up of these tiny, little crumbs that we call ordinary life. Occasionally, something really exciting happens to us and we hit a walnut or big hunk of sourdough and we think, ‘yeah, our lives are really great!” But the rest of the time it’s just these little inconspicuous crumbs. Combined they’re wonderful, but it’s too easy to let them fall through the cracks.

I think amid all the stress, packing, expectations and most of all, worry, I was overlooking all these great little crumbs around me. I wasn’t taking the time to properly savor them and taste all that they had to offer.

This summer reminded me of what I already learned three years ago as a first-year when I pulled up to Thomson Hall on move-in day, and what many of you freshmen are probably realizing: change is hard. It causes our expectations to come crashing down. It rarely looks as glamourous as it does online, on paper, or even in our minds.

Which is why you should drop all your expectations now, because nothing will ever go as you planned but before you know it you’ll be a nostalgic senior not ready to leave this beautiful place that now feels like home. You’ll learn things you never expected to learn and cherish those uneasy memories all the more because of it.

No matter where we are in life, we’ve got to be brave with our lives. Get out of our comfort zones and explore. Just don’t forget to stop and savor the little moments along the way — these little crumbs.

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