I rowed crew in high school. I only did the sport for a few years, but ended up with a lifetime of metaphor material. Lately I’ve been thinking about the concept of pace. In rowing, you (or your coxswain, stroke or coach) have to determine exactly what level of exertion will take you through 1,500 or 2,000 meters so that you have just enough energy for the last stroke. Then you collapse as you cross the line. You cannot hold anything back, nor peak too soon nor “fly and die.”
I’ve approached many life experiences trying to use the same calculus. For many years I ran intensive academic programs every summer. I got good at the eight-week burst of energy, the 16-hour workdays followed by inevitable illness or injury the very next day. Designing syllabi for my English classes was like this too: what pace of reading and writing would yield maximum learning and satisfaction at the end of each term, without inciting rebellion among students?
So now, of course, I’m trying to determine our race pace for this year abroad. We are through the beginning stages and into the amorphous middle. I’m in now way “counting down” yet but I am perhaps “backwards planning” — logistically, financially, emotionally, in ways serious and frivolous. So:
– How can we use our vacation time this year so we can travel as widely as possible? How far is too far, with the little ones in tow?
– What “burn rate” for our bank account will let us do everything we want, without being irresponsible?
– On an average weekend, what’s the right balance of hanging out at home/in the park and visiting new places?
– Will our precious stock of US commodities (almond butter, contact lens solution, kids’ paperbacks) last us until June?
– How many times can the three pairs of pants I brought go through the wash without falling apart?
Of course it wouldn’t be wise to return to Delaware in June sick, broke, empty-handed and exhausted. But I am equally concerned that we not hold back or play it too safe.
And yes, I do tend to over think things!