July 30, 2014 by Julia
I read a poll once on the subject of how people experience their vacations; it showed that people enjoy them most when they are looking forward to them beforehand and remembering them afterward, but least of all when they are actually ON them. By no means do I think this is true in every case (I have enjoyed many a vacation while on them, even with kids, believe it or not!), but this information struck me as profound.
It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that vacations must not be all that great, based on this poll. But why does present time always have to trump our dreams of the future, or our fond remembrances of the past? We have the ability as humans to cast ourselves into different places and times, mentally, and that is a valuable part of the human experience. Doing something just for the sake of making a memory is worth it, I think. It is a kindness to our future selves, whom will one day be reflecting over a lifetime and wondering if it was full enough.
By the same token, anticipation is a wonderful thing – even if the reality doesn’t live up to the expectations.
When I go through a rough patch or a (thankfully, usually minor) depression, one of the defining features of it is a feeling that there is nothing to look forward to. I remember in public high school, – when my alarm would go off at 6 a.m. so I’d have enough time to wash my hair and cover my zits with makeup before catching the bus at 6:50 – it was so hard to drag myself out of bed at that hour that I developed the practice of thinking of something to look forward to that day before I put my feet on the floor. Sometimes it was something very small, like my favorite TV show airing that night. Sometimes it was play practice after school, or a class discussion of a book I’d enjoyed. The point was, I had to believe that there was something coming that I would enjoy.
Is this the point of vacation? Are we trying reward ourselves for all of our hard work…or even give ourselves something to live for? I know that sounds dramatic. But lately, I’ve been bored…searching for something. It seems like boredom is the latest parenting trend – old is new again, and parents are supposed to let their kids experience boredom so they’ll learn to entertain themselves and not develop ADD, a sense of entitlement, panic attacks at the prospect of empty schedules, etc. I assume the same is recommended for us parents. A little boredom is healthy. Even as a kid, though, I used to look down on other kids who complained of boredom, because I NEVER felt that way. I wanted to be a jack of all trades – actor, artist, singer, pianist, writer, book critic, movie critic: you name it, and I could entertain myself with it.
Now, admitting boredom to myself as an adult, I’ve gotta say: it sucks.
So here I am, drinking red wine and writing, fending it off. Working and relaxing simultaneously – a good remedy.
Clearly the wine has gone to my head, though, because I am rambling. This was supposed to be about vacations, so that I’d have a good excuse to post adorable and artsy photos of my children on our latest vacation. Have I justified the photos at the end of this post yet?
For real, though, these deep thoughts have been going through my head, on the subject of vacations, probably because we are currently in the season of vacations. The kids and I are home together all day long, and each day seems the same, and I long for contrast. I imagined that we’d see more of our friends this summer, but between our possible contraction of Hand Foot and Mouth disease (which is a common virus that is apparently rampant this year, and I am avoiding friends in an effort not to pass it on, although I am still only 75% sure that we ever had it [also, what a name! It’s really annoying texting it when you’re warning friends and canceling plans] [Also, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The hardest part for us has been the not knowing for sure, and the trying not to spread it]), and the constant traveling of friends and ourselves (but mostly, it seems, our friends), I feel that we are on our own at least two-thirds of the time.
Which is why our latest vacation was so wonderful – beforehand, during, and afterward. Dennis was with us all day long, and dear family friends had reserved their own cabin on the same campground with us. There was a sense of community, and it was different. I could drink my coffee on the deck of our cabin while Jack examined bugs. We let the kids stay up late enough to roast marshmallows on a campfire during the late summer twilight hours, and to catch fireflies and run around playing their made-up Harry Potter stories. It was lovely, really. It brought back my own childhood memories, and it gave me relief from the repetition of our days at home, and it made me feel like a good parent for providing our kids with this experience.
So, I am not so jaded by that random poll which I cannot even cite here, but which has impacted my view of vacations. Our vacation was good during the vacation. That is all. Here are some indulgent photos of my beautiful family and friends. I hope your vacations are also good…before, during and after.