Thursday, September 9, 2010

Grandma’s Legacy: Slowing Down and Living Well

By Kate Kirby
Gordon College News Service
(This editorial appeared September 16, 2010, in The Salem News.)

With the faint smell of pine needles and the occasional crisp breeze, back to school specials mark the beginning of fall and subsequently the end of vacation season. I am on what looks to be my last weekend getaway: a trip to grandma’s.

There are no cookies waiting for me on the table, nothing wafting from the kitchen; widowed twice, my 78-year-old grandmother is a working woman. But unlike most other Ph.D. holders, she puts in 10-12 hour days as an underpaid clinical psychologist so that she can pack as much family time in as humanly possible while taking annual trips with her childhood friend. Blocks away from the Jordan hotel bombings in 2005, sporting crampons while traversing glaciers in Patagonia, and marching for peace in Sharm el-Sheikh with Suzanne Mubarak Egypt’s first lady, my grandmother aspires to die penniless working to live, not living to work.

Though she could probably use a little more daily R&R, her priorities are rare for the typical “American dream” lifestyle where family and vacation are often put on the backburner. Unlike most Europeans, the majority of Americans are allotted an inhumane amount of vacation time. As a culture we are overworked, whether circumstantially or by choice, and when those prime two weeks of vacation time do arise, we don’t know what to do with them.