Vacation — The Great Escape
Last week most Americans celebrated Fourth of July. Route #60, just below our Inn, was teeming with automobiles and motorcycles as people from out of town took advantage of a paid holiday and abandoned home and hearth to visit the mountains. In reality, this scenario would be about the same on Memorial Day, Labor Day, or Easter; but this just happened to be Fourth of July — another synonym for “vacation.”
Your dictionary defines vacation as: “freedom or release from duty, business, or activity.” Based on this definition,I would take the word “vacation” to mean an escape from the everyday life we lead, to a state of freedom, relaxation and happiness.
Question: Do people who are truly happy in their occupations consider vacations to be synonymous with freedom and happiness? Most people who appear up here on vacation seem to be grateful to get away from the “grind,” and seem to dread returning to the reality of day-to-day living.
Which leads me to question your limited and unique paradigms for happiness. Unless we are chained up, starved or abused, most of us dogs find happiness in ‘just being here.’ With all of your superior intelligence, freedom of choice, and boundless opportunities, are your jobs ‘happiness slayers,’ or are they just a ‘means to an end?’
I’ve observed a few things about my human counterparts over my brief life-span, and one of them is — most of you don’t seem to enjoy your work very much. When Ray Whitlow was alive, he savored his work life. He spent almost 30 years working in sales at Hampton Hardware in Blue Ridge, and he always felt like “family” working there until his retirement in 1978. Retiring was, at first, difficult for Ray, but the ongoing Faded Glory renovation fascinated him and softened the blow.
I overheard a discussion one day between Ray and Micah Davenport in which he tried to explain why he loved his work so much. He said that many of us start out really liking our jobs, but our biggest difficulties occur because we begin to excel in our positions. In Ray’s opinion, it isn’t difficult to excel in your occupation if you love what you are doing; but, if you are working for a savvy and enterprising employer, you will be promoted quickly so that you can pass on your productivity, enthusiasm, and skills to others. Ray believed that when that promotion occurs, all bets are off! Some folks just aren’t wired to manage, but they are, nevertheless, chosen despite that factor. On top of that, Ray believed that skills and enthusiasm are not easily infused into surrogates who are just “there to collect a paycheck. You just can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
The rare few that I meet at Faded Glory who seem to love their jobs most, seem to be somewhat underpaid, challenged with risk, and without multiple clear career paths to lucrative management positions. Believe it or not, these are teachers, clergy, firemen, policemen, and a handful of social workers. A recent study in Washington, D.C. uncovered the fact that quality assurance engineers are our happiest workers. Quality assurance engineers, really? Well, maybe it does make sense; aren’t teachers, nurses, and clergy just human ‘human quality control’ engineers in disguise? So, maybe these happier workers are really ‘loners’ in their own right; truly accountable for, and dedicated to, their own destinies without being tied to the successes of others; team players — but without direct responsibility for the team.
If Ray Whitlow were alive, he would say that the majority of you are engaged in jobs you don’t like merely to sustain the level of income that will support your chosen lifestyle. Ah, the cost of living and the joys of ownership! This isn’t an indictment, it is merely an observation from Ray. If Ray is wrong and “lifestyle” isn’t the rationale, given that folks are only granted one life here on Planet Earth, why would anyone spend a virtual lifetime at a job they disliked and probably never wanted in the first place? I envy any of my human counterparts who are lucky enough to love their jobs.
Back to vacations . . . the biggest responsibility that Faded Glory guests are faced with is what fruit preserves they might want on their warm biscuits at breakfast, or the doneness of their mesquite steaks at the “Saturday afternoon flare-off” held around our huge outdoor charcoal grill nestled under the trees near the wood-line. Some of our Faded Glory guests become so involved in the fun and exercise process, they find themselves returning home to ‘rest up.’ Our fresh deep lakes, whitewater rivers, and abundant hiking trails can wear out even the most jaded would-be explorer. Isabel is often known to quip, “there is no weight-gain for the weary.” Many of our most satisfied guests have written to tell us that some of the people they met while visiting here have gone on to become inseparable friends. In fact, some have even met their future bride or groom while ‘kicking back’ at our Inn. Talk about Kismet! These lovebirds often return for beautiful weddings on the large front porch of the Inn or in the front parlor in front of the crackling fire.
I guess that the word ‘vacation’ conjures up different meanings for different people. I am fortunate that, at this point in my existence, my whole life has been a pleasant vacation. Yes, it’s truly a dog’s life. “C’mon, Isabel, I’m ready for my breakfast!”