Today is my last day of vacation. Tomorrow we take the whole day to drive home. It’s been a fruitful time, I’ve been able to relax, spend some time on the lake, and publish multiple blog posts in a week for the first time since last summer’s vacation.
Days free from obligation leaves my mind free to wander. To reflect, observe, remember, and ponder. We’ve been visiting the same lake for summer vacations since I was a kid, so it’s one of the few places that I’m able to reconnect with places from my past in a present-day setting. This results in me surveying how much things have changed in my life since my childhood visits to this place, as well as some speculation of what the future might bring.
As I wind up this visit, I’m tempted to long for the time when I no longer have obligations to return to. This has been a constant struggle for me through many life stages, as I suspect it is for many. We look around at our daily list of chores, jobs, and responsibilities and we think to ourselves things like “if only the kids were out of diapers. If only they could bathe/feed themselves. If only they could bait their own hook. If only I owned my own home. If only I had a more reliable car. If only I had ten years with this company so I could have more days off. If only….”
I’ve thought many of these things in the past, and they tend to have distracted me from the moment. And, as anybody who’s tread this path before you will try to tell you, it’s important to enjoy these moments. You’ll never be able to experience this life stage again, and there is plenty to enjoy. Last year I wrote a post detailing my struggles leaving the latest life phase. However, part of the difficulty of leaving the kid-rearing phase behind is that the best parts of the next phase (retirement and financial independence) don’t immediately follow. At least not in my case.
I could feasibly be retired from my current position in ten years, though the reality is probably more like twelve. That doesn’t sound like a very long time, especially considering I’ve been in the workforce for over twenty. So, it’s tempting to wish away those twelve years; to gloss over them in order to get to the next phase. But as I was looking out over the water this morning, thinking about the next phase while carefully selecting the direction of my next spinner-bait cast, I remembered that a lot can happen in twelve years.
In twelve years, my parents will be in their mid-80’s, if they are still with us at all. In twelve years, my kids will all be busy starting careers and families of their own. They may need our help for things like babysitting, a place to stay, or even periodically financial support. Worse, they may be so busy with their own lives that we rarely hear from them at all. In twelve years, my already aching knees may not be able to carry me to things I would otherwise enjoy, like historical tours or even nature hikes. Heavier to consider still, in twelve years it’s possible that either my wife or I may not be alive. After all, life is not guaranteed and I know plenty of people who have passed away before their future plans came to fruition.
And so, I try to take in everything around me this vacation. The notable absence of my oldest son, who had to stay back home for his summer employment, is a stark reminder that these things will change slowly, but they will change. I try not to wish away my present to more quickly get to an anticipated future. I try to enjoy this year for what it is. I know many are not as blessed as I am to be able to see family, to take a week of respite, even to return to a place of employment and financial security. I try to remember these things as my 2020 summer vacation begins to fade.