Everyone did cool shit this summer, and with just a couple Columbia buzzwords, so did you.

Everyone at this school is too damn impressive. “What did everyone do this summer?” is a terrible icebreaker—the guy in front of you made 50k in three months in finance, the girl behind you cured melanoma, and the people on either side of you discovered themselves by backpacking across Italy. Nothing you did this summer could even begin to compare… right? But before you start feeling shitty about yourself and your lack of achievements, there’s one thing you can do to make yourself stack up: fill every single sentence with so much impenetrable bullshit, nobody can ever guess what you were actually doing this summer.

Did you have dinner with your mom’s aunt’s friend who ran for mayor of your hometown ten years ago?

That’s not a boring conversation, that’s engagement with local politics and policymaking. And if anyone asks any details, they’re “trying to fund new community initiatives, but they’ve been gridlocked for years, as the [insert opposing party] won’t let them go through with their proposals.” They’re really banking on these upcoming midterm elections to turn the political climate around. If you got one of those free campaign t-shirts, feel free to wear it around to seem politically mindful and active, I promise you nobody will ever ask for any details.

What if you worked some sort of mid-to-low-level corporate internship? It’s no Amazon or Goldman, really, nobody has ever heard of the company before you explain what it does.

But that’s not the steady comfort of mediocrity, that’s breaking out of Columbia expectations. You’re not bound by the rat race, but rather you are following what you’re truly passionate about (HVAC systems in Sacramento, folk museum curation in your local college town, writing backend code for a startup that still hasn’t paid you… whatever it may be). Really, Columbia students have a lot to learn from you about personal fulfillment. 

Now what if you worked a minimum wage job, or perhaps waited tables? 

Now here, not only were you going against The Man, and standing up to big corporate interest, but you were learning outside the classroom. Every day, you were getting an inside look at the daily realities of millions of Americans that don’t have access to an Ivy League Education. Look at you, you’re so in touch. Really, one summer working with the proletariat is enough to write your socioanthropology thesis.

Was all you did hang out with your mom and gossip?

That’s not being a homebody, that’s strengthening your familial bonds and reconnecting with your heritage (whatever that may be). And really, if you’re living at home and your only friend is your mom, this is just proof that you’re so over high school. You’ve outgrown all those losers, and you totally didn’t peak when you were 17. Having no friends this summer was a choice.

Conversely, did you regress and only spend time with high school friends?

That’s networking baby! You go get those industry connections. What do you mean, none of your old friends are majoring in anything remotely similar? Now that’s interdisciplinary collaboration, your CS-econ double major self has much to learn from your nurse high school best friend.

Now what about location? How can you possibly spruce up living in the middle of nowhere?

Listen, Omaha, Nebraska isn’t nothing, okay? There’s actually a thriving underground Midwest punk metal scene, and if you just ask the right people, you’d find a whole 30-person community. But besides that, even if you found yourself living in the Midwest this summer, you were actually just exploring a whole new region of the US. If you stare wistfully into the distance, you can even halfway convince someone that the flat cornfields “have a certain halcyon charm.” Just make sure you don’t go into too much detail as to what there actually was to do.

Now if the most exciting part of your summer was dyeing your hair to whatever was trending on TikTok in July…

That’s so much more than $13.99 Manic Panic. That’s redefining your relationship with societal norms and presentation. It’s playing in the liminal space of gender, and redefining expectations placed on [insert identity category]. Honestly, just say the word “redefining” a lot, and honestly, people will have no choice but to wondrously nod along.

Whatever you did this summer, there’s a way to twist it to make yourself sound as equally insufferable as all the fucks with their Important Jobs and Groundbreaking Research. Sure, you have to do some mental gymnastics, but that’s what everyone else is doing too. Just make sure nobody cracks and lets each other in on the big secret—we all had mediocre summers. Some of us have just mastered the art of bullshit.

couch nap via Flickr