Jaclyn Ciamillo

Come along and enjoy the ride.

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Summer Vacation: A Tribute

*Originally published on 8/28/2014*

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When I hear the words "Summer Vacation" my mind immediately takes me back to the many years my parents took us to VT.

"Why can't we stay in New York?" six voices would whine as my mother drove our fully packed suburban to a little gray house in the country. For 2 months my siblings and I were taken away from our friends and forced to use our collective imaginations to pass the time.

Our tools were bikes, anything found in the woods, board games, books, and the minimal, yet continuously used Wiffle ball and bat.

Many 13 inning Wiffle Ball games and relay races took place on my neighbor's rectangular shaped property. Down at the lake, a cannonball competition was our typical closing ceremony to end a long day. Fortunately, we also had an aluminum row boat equipped with a small engine. Despite having a boating license, I rarely won it over from my brother, an early riser and dedicated fisherman.

Those summer days called for eggs and toast at breakfast, except the weekends when my mom made pancakes for my father who drove up after working Monday-Friday.

Then there was the coupon challenge that took place mid-week when we were running low on the food my parents bought the previous Saturday. My mother made a game out of saving money and we all used to go through the newspaper together, seeking out the best coupons and deals while sorting them into their respective piles... Dairy, vegetables, fruits, cereal, etc. Food shopping took 3 hours and 2 carts most of the time since there were so many mouths to be fed. Our appetites were big... Our family of Italian American athletes doesn't have the word "full" in our vocabulary.

I'll never forget my first cliff jumping experience at a hidden waterfall. What an adventure for a curious kid. My brothers discovered it after making friends with some local teens. We all biked there one morning and one by one we jumped into crystal clear waters that went 20+ feet deep. There was nothing that could cool us off better after an 8 mile journey to get there. Things are pretty widespread with minimal action in Vermont. I'm pretty sure my mother appreciated the company on these long bike rides, too.

Then there was the 4th of July celebrations. This holiday brought the most visitors to our tiny rural town. Our very wealthy neighbor across the lake used to host spectacular firework displays. I loved watching the colors paint the night skies and dress the still lake momentarily. The vivid colors, the sounds each of my sibling's made to express their amazement, my laughing parents... Each time I see the skies light up or hear my family members chuckle, a jolt of reminiscence travels through my bones.

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Today I noticed the beginning of changing colors on leaves in the city. September is upon us and I'm okay with that.

Why I dropped out of college… And then went back.

When I made the decision not to stay in school, I wasn’t exactly sure what the repercussions would be. I was less than a year away from entering the real world with my BA in English. My future felt as though it was lacking purposeful direction, despite the great accomplishment just in front of me.

To address the disconnect I had with my “next steps,” I dropped out to figure out what I truly wanted. I made a commitment to myself that if I took a break, it would be worthwhile… You know, something I would look back on with pride. 

Serendipitously, I wound up in a management position at a small start-up with an incredible mentor. I learned some of my most important lessons in business and acquired a strong understanding for the financial and strategic sides of running a company. I also gained the ability to communicate effectively, especially when negotiating. Another discovery I made was the impact that a strong leader can make on an organization. Through that experience I realized I wanted to influence people, not tell them what to do. Most importantly, I reinvented myself and built a thick skin towards failure and change. These skills are what I see as some of the most valuable assets a person can have. They create a unique resilience that is not always found in today’s workforce.

Being okay with things not always going as planned made me feel more comfortable with moving to the next phase, so I went back to school and finished my degree (note: I don’t like leaving anything I start as incomplete). My time away from college gave me better grasp on what I was most passionate about and where I wanted to go in life. It was one of the scariest decisions I ever made —  and the most fruitful. Giving myself time to reflect on my strengths and motivations was a brilliant move, though not easy to do or follow through with all the time.

Making the choice to walk away from something I cared about was a test of willpower and mental strength. It provided an opportunity to focus on what was right long-term and forced me to take an honest look at how far I was willing to go for personal and professional fulfillment.

I’m truly grateful that I never overlooked the value of taking a breather and hope that I can inspire others to do the same, if it’s right for them.


Don't let them get it...

 

 

"I was laying in bed one night and I thought ‘I’ll just quit — to hell with it.’ And another little voice inside me said ‘Don’t quit — save that tiny little ember of spark.’ And never give them that spark because as long as you have that spark, you can start the greatest fire again."

-Charles Bukowski