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Some Thoughts on Summer

By Jamie Rodney

The song "All Night Loud" by Melbourne-based ska and jazz band Cat Empire (check them out, they're quite good) includes the line "He who sheds his sweat with me shall be my friend eternally, from this day until the ending of the world." These lyrics are based on a famous speech from Henry V by William Shakespeare (check him out too, he's also ok), which goes: "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers/ For he who sheds his blood with me/ Shall be my brother." 

Now, as you may have guessed, I'm an unashamed word-nerd, but I think there's something important going on there. Felix Riebl, Cat Empire's main songwriter saw the bonds he formed with his bandmates by working together towards a shared goal as so powerful that he not only compared them to those forged within military units by the heat of battle, but also saw fit to rewrite one of the most famous speeches in the whole of English Literature.

Now I could be (and probably am) overthinking this, but I reckon Riebl could be on to something. I've never played in an Australian indie group, but some of the best friends I've made inside or outside of The Bubble have been those I've had to work towards a goal with. Now, obviously, there's a lot that can go wrong with working in a group, and of course this isn't the only way of making friends but the feeling of being part of a team is a really, really special one. That's why societies and sports teams, performing groups and workplaces are such a good forum for making friends.

There's one problem with this kind of friendship, however, and that's the (in my view) ridiculously long St Andrean summer break. Now, there might be advantages to having three months off for summer, but there's drawbacks too, and the effect it has on relationships that are built around constantly working together is one of them. Sure, some of these relationships will survive the three-month hiatus intact, but there are plenty that are frayed by time, or distance, or differing levels of commitment, with some group members unable to understand why others aren't as keen on continued involvement over the summer, and others growing resentful of their friends who can't stop talking about what their society should do next semester when everyone just wants some time to relax.

It's at this point in the article that you'd expect me to offer a solution to this problem, but I'm not a relationship counsellor or a team-building specialist, so I've got nothing. What I can offer, however, is two apparently contradictory, but still important points, which I hope will be helpful to keep in mind.

Firstly, don't decide to throw in the towel with whatever team you're working with if it looks like you've got different ideas of how productive the summer break should be. Yes, not being on the same wavelength can be frustrating, but once you're back in St Andrews it'll be worth it in the long run, and the kind of relationships being in a team brings are too precious to throw away over a difference in priorities.

Second, if for whatever reason your team doesn't hold together, if it does turn out that the energy and focus you had in May is not there in September, then it's not the end of the world. Yes, you're perfectly justified to be disappointed, but what you can't do is take it personally. Life is usually more complex than either Shakespearean Drama or indie music, and it's perfectly ok for you not to have met your band of brothers just yet.

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