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Published September 27 2012

Benshoof: Learning the lessons of the Summer of Sam

CHICAGO – Sitting in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport four months ago, I was intrigued.

American Airlines had overbooked their flight to Fargo, and they were asking for volunteers to take the next flight a few hours later, something I had always wanted to do.

It just so happened that a few weeks earlier, I had proclaimed that the coming summer would be the “Summer of Sam.”

After not taking any vacation for nearly a year and transitioning to a new job and new city several months earlier, I decided that I was going to make the most of this summer.

This meant I’d pursue adventure and do things I’d always wanted to do. So that day in Chicago, I shrugged, asked myself, “Why not?” and volunteered to take the next flight home.

Over the past four months, I moved into a great new apartment because I really wanted a balcony, took the train to Milwaukee because I hadn’t taken Amtrak for many years, and saw Bruce Springsteen in New Jersey because now I can say I did.

I should stop here and say that this isn’t just a “Hey everybody, come listen to the great summer I had” column. Rather, I think that the Summer of Sam can mean something to you, too.

For example, I found that claiming the season as your own – saying that this fall, winter or spring you’re going to make the most of it – gives the days, weeks and months a certain sense of cohesion and purpose.

It’s easy to say that you’ll eventually get around to that thing you’ve always wanted to do, but actively committing yourself to doing it, and other things like it, makes a difference.

This summer, many of those things that I “always wanted to do” presented themselves, and this time around I made sure that they didn’t pass me by.

But listen, I know I’m no motivational speaker and certainly no expert. When it comes to life experiences, I know I haven’t really had all that much.

I’m just a 25-year-old columnist who’s come to realize that, sometimes, faced with choices in life – like, for example, delaying your trip home because it could be fun – it might just work in your favor to shrug and ask, “Why not?”

Oh, that later flight from Chicago to Fargo that I volunteered to take? Turns out it was cancelled, abruptly, and without any explanation.

With no other flight home until the next day, I spent the night at a trashy hotel in Des Plaines, Ill. I was tired and frustrated, and I got back much later than I wanted.

But in the end, it was an adventure, just one of many in a memorable summer in which asking “Why not?” made quite the difference.

The Summer of Sam might be over, but Autumn of Benshoof has a nice ring to it.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535