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2021 Year-End Reprieve

I spent my time off working on personal projects, or, to use the pejorative phrase, exploring hobbies, pursuing endeavors of the creative sort.

Vacations with the family were good, too, but if I never travelled anywhere again then I’d be fine with that.

A few weeks ago it was brought to my attention that I had some time off that had to be burned by year-end, so I scheduled five-day weekends for the last few weeks of the year.

My family and I decorated the house for the holidays, and for a few weeks we enjoyed more than the usual number of family nights, ate good food, and generally had good times.

My first week of free time coincided with the last week of school before Christmas break, so for a few sweet days I was at home alone during school hours without the wife and kids, basking in beautiful silence, free to engage in whatever work I wanted to do.

I loved spending time with the family, but for me, alone time was a mandatory mental health requirement that almost always went unfulfilled.

What did I do on my holiday break?

As noted in a previous post, I reset and refreshed my PC. I also modified some code I had written to help back up and organize our data.

Outside, I shoveled thousands of pounds of snow, and in the process created a sledding hill for the boys. It snowed over a foot one night in early December, and the snow continued throughout the month.

Most days were sunny and bright, in typical Utah fashion.

Despite the snow I took the usual walks in the foothills, and around parks.

We skied.

One day, I drove up the canyon and skied alone. There were a few moments of awe in nature, among frosty mountaintop pines.

I reorganized the garage and cleared the work bench.

I bought an axe, chopped wood, lit camp fires in the back yard fireplace. This brought deep comfort on a level I couldn’t quite explain.

I began teaching myself the art of pyrography, burning engravings into wood (see featured image, my new year totem for 2022).

I prepared several masterful breakfasts for the family. The kids were fond of pancakes, but I prefered omlettes and such.

I wrote, which still felt like an activity someone else used to do.

Bottom line: in these precious moments alone the true “me” emerged, and I was drawn toward creative work. In the future, there would be no lazy retirement for me. I didn’t need anyone to keep me busy. I was naturally motivated to get stuff done.

Unfortunately, like most people, the kind of work I was drawn to do happened to not pay well, and I had a family to support for the next decade and a half. So I stuck with the day job that left little time, energy, or mental space to do what I was intended to do with my one shot at life. And as a result, my muse burned with fury, every moment of my life.

A few months ago I wrote something cheesy about the magic of writing, about how everything I wrote – everything that became the object of my focus – eventually came to pass.

What would be my focus for the next year? What would I write? How could I frame my perspective in a way that would result in a better quality of life for my family?

At times it was impossible to see beyond this all-encompassing employment thing I was obligated to continue. The final week of 2021 would be the 1,391st consecutive workweek I had punched the clock and collected a paycheck. It had all started in June of 1995, over a quarter century ago. People in my life have suggested this was a positive thing, something from which pride must emerge. Was it? Still, after twenty-five years, no clue.

At times I was too deep in the well of total work to shake the money slave impression of my existence, but these little holiday breaks of freedom helped. I remembered who I was, and I had the mental space to imagine who I might become.

Life was more than a series of workweeks ending in death. Or was it? Going forward, I’d need a set of goals to advance me through the next year, to remind me there was more to my existence than the obligatory routine. But what were these goals? How did I fit into the world, aside from money slave? What would I write?