It seems like the logical place to start. The first day of school elicits the question from teachers and friends, many times incorporated into a writing assignment. It feels now like the assignment intended to instill in me—in us—the notion that we need to be constantly DOING things. People who don’t do are lazy. People who don’t do are unmotivated. People who don’t do are wasting their potential.
It’s vacation. Why do we have to DO anything? Vacation should release us from the expectation that we doing anything other than being lazy, unmotivated, and wasteful.
So, what did I do on my vacation? Symbolically and prophetically, on the first Sunday of vacation, I got out my Tommy Bahama beach chair. I stationed the chair in the shade on the Big Back Deck. I had my book and a big glass of cold water. I sat down and tore the bottom of my Tommy Bahama beach chair on the first full day of vacation. I promptly threw the offending chair off the Big Back Deck and replaced it with an equally expensive, but inferior beach chair.
What did I do on my vacation? I finished two books. The first, Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers. The second, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Both books examined the American penal system from two very different and distinct vantage points. Gladwell’s easy style disguised the seriousness of the assumptions we make—and the consequences of those assumptions—when we interact with people we don’t know. Alexander’s treatment of the American prison system disturbed me on every level…EVERY LEVEL.
What did I do on my vacation? Karen and I walked almost every day—which should have prevented breaking a beach chair, but did not. We cleaned house. Ate dinner at home. Watched some bad TV. Discovered some good TV.
What DIDN’T I do on vacation? I didn’t write. Not one sentence. Not one word. I didn’t check my email—after I received the ONE email I was waiting for. I didn’t walk into the church building (except to go and get my paycheck). I didn’t set an alarm clock. I didn’t go and see family. I didn’t miss work.
I wish every teacher that began the school year asking, ‘what did you do on summer vacation?’ would have asked instead, ‘Who were you on your summer vacation?’ The fundamentally different question produces a fundamentally different answer.
Who was I on my summer vacation? I was a good husband and father. I was an intrepid learner. I was an individual taking care of my mind, body, spirit, and soul. I was a homesick kid that missed his friends and family. I was a frustrated deck sitter without the benefit of a good deck chair. I was deliberate and attentive to rest and doing a few things on my terms and for my benefit. I was nonsensically introverted and nurtured that part of me without guilt.
I regret not being able to do some of things that I wanted to on vacation. I don’t regret who I was able to be on vacation.
I hope you can say the same.
I love you.
I need you.
I hope for you.
Please be safe.