Monday, July 18, 2011

Welcome Ho-meh

As a kid, I used to bemoan the seemingly unending journey to our vacation destination during road trips. It took forever. The anticipation of the arrival left me unable to sleep in the car and being awake while being too young to drive was like torture.

Eleven hours in a car far exceeded both the attention span and battery life I had in my Game Boy and my musical interests were not well rounded enough to provide me with albums to keep my headphones on the entire trip. In order to keep myself from burning out on the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana, I was forced to turn off my Walkman and submit to the selection my father chose to bring along. I think he refused to bring his more widely appreciated collections of The Beatles, The Rolling Stone, The Doors, Springsteen or his Atlantic Rhythm & Blues anthology out of spite at having to listen to the music of three teenage boys filling the house throughout the rest of the year. Instead, when I had listened to Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic for the third time and couldn’t take any more, I was treated to big band music or the Everly Brothers.

After starting a family of my own, this perspective drastically changed. Packing has become a major pain in the ass (I miss the days when I threw some clothes in a duffle bag and was ready to roll) but getting on the road and embarking upon the trek to our chosen haven of bliss for the week is something I now greatly enjoy.

On the contrary, I now dread the return trip.

On the way there the road rushes beneath me and I feel fully in control of both my vehicle and my family’s aspirations. On the way back, the hours left before my inevitable return to work are the only things rushing past me. When leaving home, relaxation and the promise of a memorable trip glow on the horizon like a thousand glorious lakeside sunsets. Coming back, each passed landmark takes me further away from the peace I just enjoyed and I feel I’m forcing my family back into the foul, dank monotony of the real world. On the way there, I seem to constantly comment on how we are making great time while the trip back always meets some horrific traffic jam.

When I was younger, I was eager to return home and see my friends. I enjoyed the week away, but I knew there was summer left to make the most of when I got back. Now, while I can still appreciate my own bed and a decent shower, I also retroactively appreciate the fact that my mother took care of all my dirty laundry and restocked a refrigerator that suddenly contained nothing but expired food.

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you realize that you are late for your final exam? The one that you realize you never studied for? Then you rush off to take it and burst into the crowded lecture hall with five minutes left to make a feeble attempt at picking up at least a handful of points and suddenly realize you’re in your underwear? While I still have that dream from time to time to today and it remains as terrifying as it was the first time, it is always such a relief to wake up and realize that you are an adult now and not even going to school anymore.

Driving home from a decent vacation carries the exact opposite feeling for me. The vacation itself seems like it was only a dream. Instead of waking up to the relief of finding yourself still in the hotel/cabin/bed & breakfast with a few days remaining to enjoy, you realize that it was real and it really is over. What lies ahead is the nightmare that is the real world, the job and the responsibilities that you, against all probability, managed to shirk for a week while you sat on your backside somewhere much prettier than the area to which you are headed back. They had the courtesy to wait around and pile up while you were gone. When you open your front door, they jump into your face immediately like a lonely puppy that had been left behind.

And somehow, despite your best efforts to remember, you always end up showing up for your first day back to work in just your underwear.

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