Growing up, my family went to a beloved, small lake town in the mountains every summer. Driving through the curves of brown hills dotted with wine country trees; spending time at Mountain Mike's, the pizza place where I watched what teenagers were like with the thirsty eyes of a growing child; water dripping on our sandy legs as we walked onto the dock before spreading out on our stomachs bathed in golden-hour sun and swooping green nylon nets through the water to catch the blue gills that always darted just out of reach—these are couched in my memory like souvenirs so real I can caress them.
Now that I have children of my own, my instinct is to create a similar treasured tradition for them, a getaway place that feels like home, a place to make memories that is comforting in its familiarity. But I'm finding that desire tempered by some of the life-choice-changing ideas presented in a book I'm reading: The Power of Moments.
The authors, Chip and Dan Heath, set out to research and explore human life experiences, and why certain moments have the ability to "jolt, elevate and change us." And there's one unearthed point in particular from their study that stuck with me: The memories and moments that people recall the most in their older age are most heavily drawn from their 20s and 30s. This is because these pioneering decades are usually full of momentous occasions—they're a collection of years filled with big firsts: first love, first job, first wedding, first child.
"The memories and moments that people recall the most in their older age are most heavily drawn from their 20s and 30s."
Once these firsts are over, there are fewer new big things in life that impact us the same way. As many of us can attest, time seems to speed up. Inexorably. Not only that; it's sad to think that the best moments of our lives are behind us.
The ideas presented in The Power of Moments, however, have given me the gift of knowing that maybe our experience of time is more in our hands than we assume. We can't slow down time but we can slow down our perception of it by purposely sprinkling novel experiences into our years. We can author the pace of our lives even on this larger, seemingly unalterable, level.
Back to the vacation conundrum. I want to slow down time. Especially if these are "the good old days," I want to stretch them out as much as possible so we can savor them to their fullest rather than feeling like we're on a speeding-up carousel. I love the idea of a yearly vacation that's a tradition, but I hate the idea that the blips of years between them will seem closer and closer together until the kids get off the carousel one by one.
Maybe we can have the best of both worlds. Maybe we can have a short spring camping trip in the same spot every year and book adventures to new places for winter or summer breaks. Maybe it's not about vacation at all, but about doing smaller but unexpected things (like breaking the kids out of school early on a Friday to go to the beach or choosing a family zip-lining day over cleaning out the garage on Saturday).
One thing is for sure. This isn't just about the kids. We definitely want to maximize our time as a family when we're all under one roof. But when the birds have flown the nest, we're going to keep sipping from the fountain of youth that is made up of purposefully choosing novel experiences. The best is yet to come.