My kids got out of school last Thursday. End of grade 2 for my son, and end of junior kindergarten for my daughter.
I cannot tell you the amount of green eyed envy with which I greeted them on Friday morning when I came down from my bed. They were still in the underwear and/or pajamas that they’d gone to bed in. First and second breakfasts had already been consumed (my breakfast consisted of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich wolfed down at 80 km/h on the way to work). The eldest was half an hour into his first video game of the day, and my daughter was having an impromptu tea party in the middle of the living room.
I, on the other hand, had a long and fairly complicated day of work ahead, with lots of little distractions, meetings, emails, and very little measurable progress on long term goals. An average day in other words.
When I arrived back home, some nine hours later, they were simply exhausted. They’d been shopping, to the local splash pad, and had a late lunch. By 6 o’clock, their friend had come over for dinner and some time in our modest backyard pool (just slightly better than the yellow ducky pool we’d had to throw out because local mice had taken it for a charity dinner). All that resting and relaxing was hard, Daddy!
However, I digress from the point I wish to make, which is that I desperately miss that glorious, fin-de-cicle exuberance that comes from a “big last day” mentality. The countdown to the big day. The ticking of the minutes until the moment arrives with all its delicious, unctuous anticipation. The fizzy-headed escape into the overheated air, all of us basking in the knowledge that our freedom was earned. It was ours by right, and would last until the end of time. Two months was time everlasting at that age.
Now though, I’m a desk jockey, working for the weekend. That weekend which is then spent doing chores and fixing up my house. And waiting for the day I get to sell that house, pocket what profits I’ve earned with my sweat equity, and then retire to a boat that will have my wife violently vomiting within two hours of boarding.
I’ve always been somewhat jealous of those with “seasons” for their work life. Hockey players. Baseball and basketball players. Teachers and professors. Anyone who gets to push and push hard for a goal and then that goal is achieved and then they release that tight grip. Of course, for the majority of those professional athletes, the season ends with a whimper, not a bang, as they go home losers from the regular season or the playoffs. They get an end though. The pushing, successful or not, comes to completion. In my line of work, the pushing continues, for years at a time, then the code gets sent away and we turn immediately to chase the next objective. We might get a celebration, but that comes when the product hits the shelves, long after our part is completed. I have stood around a few store-boight cakes, words of congratulations iced on top, and wondered, “What was this for again?”
In some ways I’m very lucky, there’s no doubt. After more than a decade at the same company, I get four weeks of vacation time. And I have a salary that pays the bills and keeps a roof over my head and food on the table. However, when I take vacation, very few of my coworkers are doing the same. The work continues; email requests and plan changes plunge into my inbox like so many subsurface mines, ticking away until the moment I return, when they all detonate in a red sea of immediate need.
In sports, the season ends and everyone has recovery time. They all know when the next season starts and how long they have to get ready for it. A hundred years ago, most people understood this in a different way. The winter ended and seeds were planted. You worked towards a healthy crop harvest, and then you and the land would rest until the next spring. Is it the echoes of this yearly cycle that have driven my life long dreams of struggle, resolution, and then renewal? Does everyone feel like this? And what do we face by ignoring it in a race for more speed and efficiency, with less recovery and renewal time?