I found myself using the dictionary a lot in 2020. It felt like a good time to get precise with words.
For example, I used to say, when asked, that my long-term professional goal was “retirement.” We’d laugh, but now it feels like I just wasn’t in on the joke.
The state or condition of having left office, employment, or service permanently, now esp. on reaching pensionable age; the period of a person’s life after retiring from office or employment.
Also: the state of having withdrawn permanently from one’s usual sphere of activity.
Isn’t it wild to use words all the time without knowing their actual definition?
What is “pensionable age” when there is no such thing as a pension?
“Having withdrawn permanently from one’s usual sphere of activity.”
What if my sphere of activity is something I actually enjoy?
Why does retirement suddenly sound more like being put out to pasture than a life of glamour, fluffy white dogs, and martini lunches on the lanai?
It got me thinking about my ancestors and how “retirement” definitely wasn’t even a thing for them, let alone a 401k, and about how this is still true for most people today.
Long story short: I stopped saying that “retirement” is my goal.
During quarantine, for lots of reasons, I frequently had the word “vacation” on the mind.
Sure I wanted to be on a vacation just to escape quarantine hell. But I spent more time thinking about how I always want to be on vacation, present dumpster fire aside, and how I should probably be sure I knew exactly what that meant:
1. NORTH AMERICAN an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling
2. the action of leaving something one previously occupied.
Though not surprised at the temporary and reactive sentiment, this still isn’t exactly the definition vibe I had in mind.
Especially one spent away from home – as if retreating from something intolerable?
Common synonyms for vacation are words like retreat, getaway, escape.
*Escape from WHAT?*
Are we working even more so that we can, one day, take a vacation from that work? What exactly are we buying in to?
Look, I spiraled because I’ve been there.
Vacation usually feels like a band-aid that gets ripped off too soon, still oozy and tender. And most folks don’t even get the privilege of a band-aid.
So why does it have to be that way?
What if, instead, vacation could be the rule and not the exception? The vacation we *really* need is the one we only occasionally depart, and then only for the most necessary, if unpleasant, business: a protest, a pap smear, a breakup.
If I could write my own definition – and I suppose I can – vacation wouldn’t actually require us to go anywhere and it wouldn’t be inaccessible to anyone.
a perpetual, optimal, personal experience of one’s own choosing.
The rule, not the exception.