Incredibly, this phrase popped into my head on the very first day of my vacation in Venice, Italy. A dream trip. My first real vacation in a little over eight years, since I started writing. And wrote I did, as you know. Every day. For four to six hours, sometimes more. Never taking a weekend off. A holiday. Nothing. I wrote like I was possessed, and I was possessed. Writing was my salvation.
Until this year my body told me to stop. It wasn’t having any of this non-stop-writing anymore. And when I looked back at the years, I realized the last real vacation I took was with my daughter, about eight years ago. (Trips back to Russia don’t count. They were work of another sort.) We went to Lisbon, Portugal. I’d promised my son the same deal, mother-son bonding and a trip of our own. But then I kept putting it off, and off, and off. Not enough time. Not enough money. Plenty of excuses.
Writing was my life—the life of extremes. It was all or nothing. I didn’t know balance. I knew only perseverance and work, work, work. Never stop. Never rest.
I’d finally saved enough and arranged my time well enough that I could do it. I took a vacation! My son picked a place on the map, and it ended up Venice (if you want, look at recents posts here to see all the pics). I’d never been to Venice or Italy, and it seemed impossibly far and impossibly unreachable.
It happened. I made it happen.
Then while on vacation, I got the truth of it.
“You don’t need it,” I thought.
“You don’t need a vacation.”
Ever since I started doing financial coaching, after dragging myself out of debt and arranging my finances so I could begin building my net worth, I’d noticed more and more how the wonderful money-making wheel that keeps American consumerism churning prompts us into this lifestyle of “work hard, then play hard.” You’d heard people say that. I did too. I didn’t understand what it meant.
It means that we’re conditioned to slave at our jobs, to then spend all that money we made on relaxing on some expensive beach in brand-new bikinis we bought especially for this trip, to then go back to our jobs, and to keep repeating the cycle. The exhausting cycle.
WE DON’T NEED TO WORK HARD.
All that money I spent on airplane tickets and hotel and food, we could’ve done all this here in Seattle. I could’ve had the same or better quality time with my son. Instead I opted for excess. Which is what drives us into exhaustion and debt. National debt that’s staggering. We’re not used to saving, not used to investing, not used to balancing our lives. We’re always running forward like some donkeys after a carrot, making urgent noises, wanting it so bad...
We had an incredible time together in Venice, me and my son. And he was witness to my excess conditioning. I ate too much. Spent too much money on food. Saw too many museums. Walked too much (even after I got blisters!).
Time is funny that way. It’s the little things that eat away at it, just like little expenses and invisible inflation that eat away at our earnings.
Once you get rid of clutter, get rid of all those little drainers (checking emails, scrolling through Instagram, picking up every phone call, getting distracted by the internet), you suddenly have lots of time. To work with pleasure. And to play with pleasure. No more of that “hard” stuff.
So you see, you don’t need a vacation.
You need life.
Death isn’t far.
In fact, working with clients on arranging their retirements and planning the amount of years they’d need to draw from their nest egg after retirement (20? 25? 30?) made me think about death a lot. Planning this for myself made me think about death a lot. Looking at clients’ insurance plans and taking about wills and trusts and inheritances made me think about death a lot.
Again, we’re conditioned not to think about it. Not to plan for it. We’re told to study (student loans), build careers (spend our paychecks), buy houses (get mortgages), buy cars (owe banks), get credit cards (sink more into debt), take great vacations (take out loans to do so), until one day all of it goes bust. Hello, bankruptcy (I went through one). Money bankruptcy and time bankruptcy. The money one is a thing we know and understand. But time bankruptcy? Don’t you complain every day you don’t have enough time to do all the things you want to do? Why? Who’s in control of your time, if not you?
That’s what I mean by “You don’t need a vacation.” What you need is a good, long, hard look in the mirror. Your life is up to you. Either burn it up or live it.
End of rant.