True adventurers have never been plentiful. They who are set down in
print as such have been mostly business men with newly invented
methods. They have been out after the things they wanted–golden
fleeces, holy grails, lady loves, treasure, crowns and fame. The
true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and
greet unknown fate. A fine example was the Prodigal Son–when he
started back home. — O. Henry, “The Green Door.”
Jumping into the car on the last day of school terrifies me. For teachers, summer vacation can prove a daunting enterprise particularly if you happen to be single. “Balderdash!” you may shout in a Victorian accent. “I have a 9 to 5 job throughout the entire year. You teachers have it lucky what with this summer vacation nonsense. Pip pip cheerio. Fish and chips.”
Well, let’s field that common misconception first. Imagine you have trained your entire life as a scientist or a writer. After graduating with your Masters degree, you find jobs in short supply due to . . . let us say because of a ‘recession.’ You take a job as a teacher in a high school, which slowly consumes your entire life. You teach all day, and on nights and weekends, you plan new lessons, create tests or grade grade grade until your fingertips are permantly stained red with misplaced commas and imbalanced chemical equations. This is your life. These kids, their needs and their dreams, become your life. Tunnel-vision within a textbook.
And then suddenly one day in June it all stops. You’re relieved from duty or released from prison, depending on how you look at it all. You discover yourself behind the steering wheel of an old Ford Explorer, the entire world waiting for you . . .
Where do you go? What do you do? Do you pick up the pieces of the life you once had? The ‘you’ before teacherdom, does he exist anymore? Should you revive pre-teacher Murph, only store him away again come September? Or should you create a new Murph? All you know is that you don’t want to waste any moment or second of this newfound freedom. In past years, I’ve squandered days and weeks deciding, meandering around the house attempting to adjust to civilian life again. It’s an odd feeling.
Travel is the first and best idea. The family and I will be spending this summer in Hilton Head, South Carolina, an old vacation spot which we’ve neglected these last several years. At the end of July, I have to attend a two-week course for a class I’m teaching next semester. It’s not exciting, but my days will be spent building models of lymph nodes and substituting dried spaghetti for capillaries. Faculty workshops and training begin mid-August, which leaves a month-and-a-half of scattered unscheduled time. How do I fill it?
Frankly, between you and me, I yearn for an adventure. I’ve written about this need in past years, usually around this time, but somehow never managed to find the elusive goal. In the car, yesterday, while talking to Bree — still sans license; God help anyone who meets her on the road — I admitted that my view of romance typically involved pyramids, jewel-encrusted scarabs, a beautiful but mysterious egyptologist, and the re-animated corpse of thousand-year-old high priest. Realists our there, I am aware this cannot, will not happen. The laws of physics and reality cannot bend to a man from Baltimore. However, like the young man in O. Henry’s ‘Green Door’ I want to be ready to reach out and grab it should that one-eyed samuraii pirate ever tap me on the shoulder and whisper, “Arg, gaijin-san, you will do nicely . . .”
Isn’t that what any of us yearn for anyway?