Happy to Live in the Present

I had hoped to give an update on our first 30 days of life without the internet today but that life is proving to be fraught with many an [unforeseen] obstacle and that post is going to need a bit of revision. In the meantime, I combed back through my archives and found this tidbit instead. I thought I could use the reminder that though we can’t change the past, we can change our mind.


We all know someone who is backwards focused, always looking into the past and presuming how their life (or yours) would have been vastly different…if only. If only they had married Bob instead of Bill. If only they had finished that degree. If only they had selected a different career path. If only…

A few days ago I was chatting with someone who knew me when I was in college. “You should have just gone into journalism,” she said. “You write for a living anyway.” Perhaps it was a harmless observation, but knowing my friend, I knew she thought I could have “done better” with my life. This is, by the way, the same person who once asked me why anyone would bother to write a book if it wasn’t going to be a bestseller.

When I studied journalism 25 years ago, the word “blog” hadn’t even been coined. As I learned the fundamentals of newspaper reporting, I became keenly aware that I had little interest in journalism as a career path. I loved research and the art of crafting a good story. I did not love the ins and outs of the newspaper business. So I changed majors.

Like 49% of American college graduates, I don’t even work in my field of study (which ended up being business, by the way). I do write for a living. I write grants for non-profits. I also write in my journal and on this blog, and sometimes I even write short stories – despite the fact that they will never be bestsellers. I didn’t need to become a journalist to write. I didn’t need to become anything. I was already a writer from the moment I picked up a pen and told myself I was.

Backwards focused people nearly always think the grass is greener on the path not taken. Though a million thoughts crossed my mind that day, I knew it was an unwinnable argument so I opted to steer my friend to a different topic. She will always see my life as one of missed opportunities. But I’m not so certain that I’m the one who missed out.

Everybody knows how sweet it is to savor life’s simplest moments when we pause to take it all in: watching the sunset; taking a walk with a friend; or having a hot cup of tea on a winter’s day. Far too often, however, we’re pulled away from the present to fixate on the past, or worry about the future. When this happens, we’re not able to fully experience the richness, and subsequent happiness, that is often right under our noses. ~ Kim Pratt, LCSW

In my daily life, I try to remember to be mindful. I can’t do that by dwelling in the past. No choice that could have been made in the past will ever compare to the one that can be made right now; to be present and grateful for this very moment.

Alaska or Bust??

I read The Box-car Children when I was in 3rd grade and decided then and there that I wanted to live in a boxcar. To my 9-year-old self, stealing milk off doorsteps and sleeping on a straw mat seemed an adventurous and independent thing to do. Then I read Where the Red Fern Grows and instead of boxcars, I wanted two little puppies to hunt with. Mind you, I never wanted to actually kill anything; just go out at night with my pups and a lantern…maybe steal some milk off a doorstep and sleep on a straw mat. Even now, I still read every day and I still want to go, see, and do the things that I read about.

A few months ago, Angie and I were on an Alaska kick. My mom had gotten us hooked on Alaskan Bush People and we had each picked up a few books about folks living in remote Alaskan villages (like If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name by Heather Lende and Forty Years in the Wilderness by Dolly Faulkner). As always happens, we started daydreaming about going there and even looked into Alaskan cruises. We both told our parents that “our next big trip would probably be to Alaska”. And it probably will be. But when we say the words “our next big trip”, we don’t exactly mean the next time we pack up the car and pull out of the driveway. It could be a few years before we make it to The Last Frontier. In the meantime, we have other plans, though none of those plans included hurting the feelings of someone we love. Yet, it seems that we did.

Angie’s mom said she wanted to go with us if we went on a cruise to Alaska. We said that sounded great, and we moved on without much of a second thought. Why? Because my mom always says that she wants to go with us to Hawaii the next time we go. My nephew tells us every time that he sees us that he wants to tag along if we ever go to Ireland. Angie’s aunt and uncle said once that we should all plan a road trip together and my niece mentioned at Christmas that we should go with them to Florida this summer. It’s something people say and sometimes it turns into a real plan, but more often than not, it’s just a way to daydream about a vacation together. But Angie’s mom was serious, and it seems she was expecting us to go this spring.

Of course, now we feel terrible. So terrible in fact that we considered hastily putting together a trip just so we wouldn’t let anyone down or make anyone mad or cause anyone to miss out on such an opportunity. Thank goodness we came to our senses, because we are in no way ready for such an undertaking!

And honestly, most folks aren’t either. Did you know:

  • 75% of Americans have gone into debt to pay for a vacation at some point in their lifetime,
  • 23% did so in the past 12 months,
  • 55% don’t budget for vacations (or factor them into their annual expenses), and
  • Over the past year, Americans borrowed $12.64 billion for vacations, racking up $778.77 million in interest and other charges?

Have you ever heard the term “debt-lag”? It’s what happens when you return from a vacation with debt. We’ve only ever had it once – when we hit a few snags on our 2014 trip to California and Hawaii – and we decided then and there, we would not have it again. Not for any reason. If we couldn’t completely pay for a certain vacation destination, we would simply not go there. There are way too many other, cheaper places to go when the “exotic” or “once in a lifetime” locales are not [yet] within reach.

Our plan for Alaska (or any other big destination) is to save up before we set off. Looking at cruises, lodging and activities gives us an idea of how much we need to add to our vacation fund and how long we need to save. You might say, a lot of dreaming and scheming goes into our travel planning process. I get that it’s not the same for everyone, and that’s okay. If you are ready for and able to take a big vacation, like an Alaskan cruise, and that’s what you have your heart set on doing, then that’s what you should do. We just aren’t there yet.

We gently and lovingly tried to explain our position to Angie’s mom. She was disappointed, but I’d like to believe she respects our decision to avoid debt. More importantly, I hope she understands that though we might not be going to Alaska this year, she is always welcome to go with us wherever we may roam…even if it’s just to the park. (We have plenty of hammocks, by the way 😊)