There is something so genuine about a little boy being outside, skinning his knees, sloshing in mud puddles, and engaging with nature. I used to be that little boy. Now I have one.
The week before Father’s Day, I woke Kemper up at midnight and we hopped in the car for a surprise trip up to Brevard, North Carolina, where my parents and sister were on vacation. It was a spur of the minute surprise for Father’s Day for my dad, and when we walked into the cabin while he was eating his breakfast, it was clear that it had the intended effect.
I had worked a couple of long months (hence the dearth of posts), and I had mentally burned the candle at both ends until it was nearly extinguished. I needed to check out for a couple of days, and so with Anna’s blessing, and This Side of Paradise and The Great Gatsby on audiobook (I’m on a Fitzgerald kick, what can I say), Kemp and I made the 7.5 hour trek to North Carolina in the dead of night.
Initially, my only thought was that it would be a great surprise for my dad. Bringing along Kemper was secondary, and my own enjoyment of the trip was a distant tertiary consideration. My dad was thrilled. Kemper enjoyed himself. But the effect the four days I spent with them in North Carolina had on me was more powerful than I could have ever anticipated.
I am, by most metrics, a very good son. I call my mother often; I have lunch with my dad at least once a month; and we visit (though not as often as we, perhaps, should). I thought the trip would be a nice surprise, and little more. My dad had texted me when they arrived the week prior that he really wished that I would have been able to come up. My mom echoed this sentiment to me on a phone call later that day. This planted the seed, but I was too busy to even think about pulling myself away from my desk.
I cannot say precisely what it was that made me realize that surprising my dad was more important than two days of billables. I do not remember the tipping point. It may have been at 1:00 AM, sitting at my desk at work, having not been able to fall asleep that night because I was thinking about all that needed to be done. Perhaps. At some point I had an epiphanic realization that my life over the last two months had been, quite literally, all work and no play.
Fitzgerald always inspires me to imagine that there is more to the world that what I have done so far—whether this is writing the next Gatsby, or simply stepping outside my comfort zone to see what comes of it. Shipping up to North Carolina on a whim was completely out of character for me, who needs to plan his major life choices with spreadsheets and agony. I have not made a better personal decision in a very long time.
We are going to California, Anna, the kids, and I, in July before my in-laws sell their house in Carmel-by-the-Sea. I am selling all of my earthly possessions including my trusty Nikon D7100 to buy a new camera so that I can take the best photos of what might be my last trip out there for quite a while. (The D7100’s still for sale, if you’re interested!) I have planned out an itinerary to maximize my photographic opportunities. I am resolute about capturing every sunset while we are there.
The trip to North Carolina helped to readjust my perspective on life. It is short. Work is an important part of my life at this point, but providing for my family means more than just a paycheck and a bonus. I saw that in Kemper as we took the hike along the Davidson River, where he stopped and sat for a minute on a fallen elm tree just looking over the river flowing before him. For a moment, he understood what it took me 30+ years to understand. (In fairness, it will have escaped him as quickly as the twigs that he threw in the quickly flowing current…)
Life is about moments, and moments are about what you make of them.
I’m going to try my very best not to forget that. Maybe I will keep Fitzgerald on repeat to remind me.