As I've thought about all the summers I've lived through, I can safely say that I've been overall pleased with only 3 of them.
I entered the MTC on June 15, 2005, in preparation for my adventure in Portugal. I grew tremendously in those 9 weeks in Provo. I had never been so entrenched in the gospel before this time. Learning to live without my siblings, friends, and parents was somewhat difficult for me, but I couldn't be more grateful for this opportunity. Some of my closest friends were made in the MTC. I think friendship is kindled there because there are thousands of young people in the same position you are in: learning new things and experiencing a different kind of life. I still remember watching the hot air balloons and fireworks on July 4 and really feeling like I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that time.
By this time I had spent about a year in Portugal. The language was no longer an issue, and I was simply loving missionary work. The summer was somewhat split between two areas. I had been on Madeira, a Portuguese island off the coast of Africa, for about 4 months, so I essentially had skipped winter. Madeira was excellent, and I really didn't want to leave. Especially for Maia. Maia is close to two other areas I had served in, and I had heard that missionary work was dead there. Reluctantly I obeyed my mission president and went to Maia. The next six months were the hardest of my mission - knocking and contacting with little to no success. Scorching heat. Sticky humidity. Tough companions. But I loved it. Even though outward success seemed to be nonexistent, I felt that I was giving a very valiant effort. Maia became my favorite area because I truly felt I was in the refiner's fire.
I had become so accustomed to relaxing during the summer (except for my mission) that even thinking about attending school was horrendous. Walking across campus in the hot sun definitely did not appeal to my vision of a terrific summer. But, feeling that I should take advantage of the opportunity to take summer classes, I enrolled. Full time. Awkward schedule. No friends in any class. I did not want to be there. But as classes have ensued, I couldn't be happier with what I am doing this summer.
School. Work. Making friends. Family. Managing time. Book of Mormon Blitz. Institute. Dating. Outside. Trampoline. Basketball twice a week. Picnics. Reading. I love the feeling of productivity. I'm glad that I don't get to sleep in. Although I cherish an occasional sleep in, I mostly consider it a waste of time. I love exercising in early morning or late night. I've made some great friends in classes, and being more involved in the ward has been super. This summer is going great.
I won't say that my other 20 summers have been wasted or unappreciated, for I definitely have great memories from each one. But it's interesting to note that my hardest, most productive summers have been my favorites.