How I Spent My Summer (Non) Vacation

I feel the best alternate title for this could easily be “My Big Fat Introverted Summer”

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Today was Labour Day, the unofficial end of summertime, at least as far as long weekends go.  Next one coming up for those of us here in Greater Toronto is Thanksgiving in October.  Of course, the season itself still has three weeks of official life to it, and even then, as recently as two years ago, we’ve had temperatures in the thirties well into Turkey Day weekend.

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Around this time of year, you hear people say things like “Oh man, where did the summer go?” or “it went by way too fast”.  But I dunno, this summer went by at a pretty normal pace.  I’m grateful for my choice to focus on the Now as often as possible, since it has an odd effect afterwards: it pegs the moment in your memory like a milestone in time.

Afterwards, you think back to, say, when you went camping for Canada Day, or spent the evening on the patio with visiting family members from Trinidad, and it seems not only in its right place, but somehow even further back in time than it actually was.  Other people lament that it seemed like just yesterday: for you, it seems more like years.

I don’t speak of a summer “vacation” because I had the opposite: I went back to full time working in early May.  The experience has been financially rewarding, stressful, has forced me to face some aspects about myself that I’ve shied away from, such as dealing with workplace bullying, money anxiety, setting boundaries, and keeping myself in as much integrity as the practical reality of working for someone else will allow.  For both of my jobs, I intend to stay until they don’t want me any more, but it has meant that this summer was mostly spent at work.  I guess that’s how you know you’re a grown-up, or at least a mediocre one.

A few years ago, while on a patio night out with friends, I spoke with this couple sitting at the table next to us who ran their own business, but shut it down every May 24 weekend until Labour Day, relying on what they saved during the colder months of the year to enjoy the hotter ones.  That’s the model I’d like to adopt, I think, though my Ideal Day would still see me doing what I love all times of the year.

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A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting “Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert at her inaugural tour for her new fiction novel “The Signature of All Things” (the advance copy of which I’m thoroughly enjoying).  At the event, she said something that I’m hoping will be the subject of a “Chatelaine” magazine article about the writing process.  Liz hasn’t written in a year, and while she acknowledged at the time that this is admittedly a luxury that she can afford thanks to the immense financial success of “Eat, Pray, Love”, she did say that there is a season to everything. There’s a time to write, a time to rest, a time to promote (as she is doing now with “Signature”), and it’s all right to take a break.  This, oddly enough, is the opposite of what I had long taken from Liz’s famous TED talk in which she talks about “showing up” every day to do your job.

Context matters, of course, and I’m sure Liz would have clarified for me had I thought to ask at the time, but the way I reconcile those two apparently conflicting statements is this: you can avoid showing up to the fields in winter and still be considered a farmer, but come the spring thaw, you need to be out there all the time doing what you do best.  Same thing goes for writing; promote and relax in those seasons when they’re here, but when writing returns, show up.

This summer was not quite a fallow time, writing-wise, for myself: I put more words on paper for my manuscript “Overlife” , finally began the reboot of my very first book, “The Quarter Life Opportunity”, and I held the first signing events for “Convergence”.

These past couple of weeks also saw the advent of  Wordslinger Press, the natural business outgrowth of my little writer’s guild, still largely in the conceptual stages, but beginning start-up operations soon.  I still journal, handwritten and private.  And, of course, I have blogged, though only twice from what I can tell in the last three months.
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But I did do as much as I could, spent a lot of time in Toronto, didn’t go to Hamilton more than twice or three times, and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t have a single pub night with my friends.  Most of my time was with my immediate and extended families: this year, we had a lot of relatives from my Mom’s side come up from Trinidad and Florida, including a few who had never been here before.  Their visits were staggered, so as one set of visitors finished their trip and went back, another would show up within a week.  House parties, trips to the city, to picnics in conservation areas out of town: these all took up a lot of my free time, but it was very much worth it to meet my kin and make them feel at home.

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Other than that, I was, as the kids say, “doing me” for the most part, just going places solo, doing my best to maintain my centre in between work and family commitments.

I stopped dating, something I never expected I would do, since summertime gives you a lot of romantic opportunities (i.e. trips to the beach, patio dinners, night walks, etc..) that the rest of the year doesn’t usually offer.  I dunno, I suppose I felt content, part of this latest phase of introversion.

Out of this romantic hiatus has emerged one rule, though, that’s replaced most of the other superficial ones, the only “rule” that should ever be in place when you’re out to get great things in life: only pursue those who are naturally going the same way you are.  Interpret that as you may, but I know what it means for me: in the natural course of accomplishing the goals that I’m working towards, I will meet the right woman for me.  I don’t mind waiting until that day because, well, I have a lot to do in the meantime.

Anyway, this entry’s become more of an information dump than I anticipated it would be, so I’ll just end it soon by saying that I’m looking forward to the fall, to the continuity that the season brings now that fewer people go on vacation, host barbecues and parties, and otherwise make my attempts at setting a good productive routine fail miserably (honestly, who can resist a steak and a cold beer on a warm Saturday night?).  I’m looking forward to rebuilding a steady rhythm to my life, a rhythm that resumes tomorrow.

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