Monday, July 14, 2008

Permanent Vacay: How Can I Be Down?

Photo by Christian Sommers

“This is what I live for,” I sighed as my girlfriends and I dined on the balcony of the Ember’s Restaurant on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, sipping cocktails and grubbin’ on Cajun cuisine.

Goodness, is it really? The announcement shocked me. Well, maybe I wasn’t all that shocked by the declaration itself, just the way it tasted after it escaped from my mouth. It seemed shallow. There’s more dignity in proclaiming you live for your kids or for helping old ladies cross the street or running marathons for charity or climbing mountains.

Literally, I don’t live for crawfish gumbo, bread pudding, and alcohol (contrary to popular belief). Yet right at that moment, the chemistry of the spices, the laughter, the energy of thousands of people strolling the street below, the smiles, the light-hearted banter…it all added up to what life’s supposed to be about. Happiness.

I desperately need to figure out a way to replicate that feeling. To live on vacation. “Don’t we all!” they shout. “Get rich!” the mob cries. Well, that will be awesome, but in the meantime prior to making crazy bank, is it too much to ask/expect/strive to be happy every day? To eat, drink, and be merry every day, and not just on intermittent paid days off from work?

This is some serious withdrawal.

Surely everyone feels this way after vacation, but I’m on a different level right now. I’m practically depressed.

The goal of vacation is to be happy by any means necessary, whether it be stuffing oneself without fear of calories, drinking at midday, dancing until 4 am, getting your flirt on, your sexy on, your whatever on. Being happy at all costs. Why don’t we lead regular life with this kind of dedication?

The running joke/mantra throughout our Fourth of July weekend in New Orleans went like this, “Three words--Vay. Cay. Shun.” This was the response any time one of us debated a second order of bread pudding or buying a lovely piece of jewelry. Three words:-- Vay. Cay. Shun.

Now I’m back in regular life, and why does regular life have to be so darn regular?

“Vacation is a state of mind,” said my good friend Brett as I whined about my predicament. “I know people who do it.”

View from the balcony of the Bourbon Street Blues Company during Essence Festival 2008.

Well it must be a state of mind that has nothing to do with money, because I most definitely can’t afford to retire and chill on the beach right now. So in a figurative sense, a vacation state of mind is not about splurging on trinkets, but maintaining that mental state that germinates in Hiltons, Hyatts, and Marriotts far from home. When I recall the mindset of vacay, it’s simply hakuna matata, straight no chaser. No worries. About money, about weight, about work, about bills, about family, about whatever. Everything you do on a good vacation is about getting the most of your day and to hell with the rest. To hell with the rest! Ha! How liberating!

We have to stop treating enjoyment like the fine china that only adorns the dinner table on holidays. “If you're not going to have fun, why do it?” Randy Pausch questioned during one of his last lectures on time management. Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was given only a few months to live. His perspective on time has obviously become more urgent. "I truly believe that time is the only commodity that matters," he said.

Pausch emphasizes fun as the "overall goal" in life. I can dig his sentiments. Have fun every day. Anticipate every day.

It’s interesting, even after chatting and dancing until the sun came up, I couldn’t sleep past 8 am in New Orleans. I was too excited, too eager to begin the day, no matter how soft the comforters or pounding the hangover. In retrospect, it proves that when your day revolves around things that make you happy and experiences to savor, tiredness is an afterthought. Passion is energy. Passion is fuel. Happiness is fuel.

That’s it. I’m over dreading Mondays. I’m over dreading anything. I know I can’t ignore my obligations, but I aim to approach them with a more beautiful mindset. (e.g., My job is now my “vacation sponsor.”)

Although I may not be able to hop a plane and return to NOLA, or anywhere else tomorrow, or next week, or next month, I’m determined to infuse my regular life…with life.