The Waiting Game

I’m always waiting for something.

During the peak vacation months of summer, I crave the moments after I have booked a plane, reserved a room or simply made plans to crash at a friend’s shore house. I love pulling out my blue planner and marking down the days that I will finally be away and enjoying the anticipation of wondering what will happen, who I will meet, and all the excitement I’m sure to have. Time after time, I build up my trips to an unfathomable amount of fun, and to be honest they rarely ever live up to my expectations (although looking back in my highlight reel of vacations, they always do).

This is good.

Turns out, in research that doesn’t shock me, the largest jump in trip-bliss comes from the seemingly small act of planning the trip in the first place and waiting for it to come to fruition. Researchers from the Netherlands determined in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life that the anticipation of an upcoming trip can actually last up to eight weeks (so buy your plane tickets early).

And, oddly enough, it turns out that those in the study who even post-trip described their vacation as “relaxing” did not experience inflated levels of happiness after the trip was over. This means that the happiest they were the entire time was in the process of planning the trip.

This doesn’t mean that you need to have a vacation planned every eight weeks to experience this higher-than-baseline happiness. Instead, make it hometown-scale by arranging your weekend early and making plans with friends for later early in the week now. Find fairs, farms, museums, tours, cities and activities to do nearby where you live and decide that’s where you’ll be this Saturday. Pack your weekends so full of fun that you’ll forget it was just Saturday and Sunday and you’ll wonder how it’s humanely possible that you have this much fun every five days. 

Even if when I get to my destination the food kind of sucks, I fight with my friends and I don’t meet one single good-looking guy, I still always relish every week, every day, every moment before my trip, imagining the extraordinary memories we are sure to create. I like putting in the legwork and doing the research required to make sure that I see every sight and packed all of the perfect outfits. I need to have a full calendar so no matter how many days pass, there is always something new and exciting to look forward to.

None of my imagined memories happen. Never.

However, in a perfect sync with a life aboard the traveling circus, madder things always occur leading me to imagine, anticipate, and relish over and over again.

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Live a Life Worth Telling.

I always thought I knew who the winners were.

The businessmen and the lawyers; they were the ones who had it right. Ever since I was little, they were the ones who had it all, with their big, happy families in their cozy mansions with a golden retriever who had a bandanna around their necks. In my head, they came home at 6:00 everyday to a beautiful homemade meal on the table and they spent their weekends on their yachts and drinking cocktails on the porch with their neighbors by moonlight.

Being a middle schooler who unlocked their own door everyday and begged for rides home from track practice, this was the dream. This is what I thought about when I was studying and figuring out how I was gonna pay for school one day; that one day, it would all be worth it.

However, now I’m 22. And I’m not going to med school and I’m not going to law school. Hell, my major is Communication and I spend most of my time palling around in this office and drinking free coffee and trying to figure out which break I can go run at. I may not have a full-time job yet. I may not have a family or a golden retriever and I may drive an ’02 Ford Focus. But I don’t think the businessmen and the lawyers are the winners anymore.

When I was abroad, I met some of the happiest people I have ever known who barely held what you would consider a full-time job. You know what they did? They picked potatos in Ireland. When the season was over, they would take the money they made and then they would go to England and they would bartend in Camden Lock. When it got too cold out, they would fly to Turkey and live in cheap hostels in Istanbul. They always had a backpack on and barely ever wore shoes. They told the most interesting, exciting, and wonderful stories I have ever heard. This is winning.

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Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

Getting older, little by little, it is this quote that has much more merit, for me at least, than an endless doctor’s shift or 80 hours workweeks at a law office. One day, some of you will (if you have the time) go to parties and you will say, “I’m a doctor at the local hospital.” Or you will say, “I make $150,000 a year as a lawyer.” And you know what? This is great. But truth be told, for some of us, these figures will never bring happiness. Spending all our daylight hours in little rooms and being tired and hungry and overworked and missing our friends and our families will never, ever, be enough for that beautiful mansion or that red convertible. It’s just not.

Those people, those wealthy, suited, briefcased people are the ones who cheat on their wives, whose children go to therapy because they were always alone. Those are the ones who can count the number of vacations they have been on on one hand because there simply wasn’t time for anyone else.

For some, this will be worth it and they will leave a contented life and maybe make themselves feel like they did something of value for making someone else money. They will not mind that they spent 50 years selling insurance for a faceless corporation. But for me, and many others, we need more. We need substance. We need a life, a story, we need to see a sequence of adventures when the time comes for that white light, not just a series of numbers on a lit-up screen. We need to travel, to see the world, to meet people who are interesting and exciting and to do things that other dream about when they say One day, when I retire. And for this, I don’t mind sleeping late, wearing jeans, and wondering how the hell I will pay for lunch today.

It will always be worth living a life worth telling.