“something to look forward to”
The bell had rung, signalling the end of the day, and students started to come into the library to help plan the upcoming school leadership camp. Two teachers, one entering the library and one exiting, exchanged quick greetings and a mini-conversation.
“Are you looking forward to it?” asked Mr. T.
“Yes!” answered Ms. G.
“But have you told Ruth yet?”asked Mr. T, with the clear intention of having me hear.
“I know!” laughed Ms. G, covering her face in mock shame.
I joined in the conversation. “Are you talking about your trip?”
Ms. G, like many staff members at my school, is now aware of my debt reduction mission. She has also read the posts I’ve written about staff who have given me permission to share their stories in personal finance. “You should write a post about me,” she said to me one day, shortly after having read about our colleague Curtis and his wife Allison getting on the same financial page. “You know – about someone who is on the fence when it comes to money management.” Some things, claimed Ms. G, were worth going into debt for. Like the trip she and her family were considering for the March Break. “What about saving up for that trip ahead of time?” I had asked. But I didn’t pursue it. I have to watch it, because I don’t want to be that money-smart know-it-all.
Today, Ms. G talked to me about her decision to take the plunge (and to take on a $3,000 + credit card debt) for a family vacation. “I need something to look forward to,” she explained, “to make it all worthwhile.”
Her words struck me. “That’s the trap of our times,” I said. “We don’t see anything to look forward to in our day-to-day lives. We create lives that we want to escape, and usually that escape costs money. We end up even more stuck in our day-to-day because we have to pay off our escapes from it.”
The Great Escape
The Great Escape, both the book and the movie, tells the historically-based story of a Nazi prisoner of war camp and the men who plotted escape from it. Extensive planning and a willingness to take high risks characterized the prisoners’ focus on their hope for freedom.
The word “escape” has meanings that differ in subtle ways from each other, as stated at Dictionary.com:
The prisoners from The Great Escape wanted to be free of the confines of the Nazi prison camp. They wanted to be safe from the perils of enemy control. They wanted to fade out quietly so that no one would notice their departure. They wanted to be “back in the wild” – to have the full life promised by liberty.
But what about Ms. G? And what about the rest of us who spend our way to great escapes from the lives we have created? I don’t think we’re all that different.
- We want to get away from the restrictions of the treadmill of life.
- We want to have a break from the evils of constant pressure and stress.
- We want to disappear from “reality”.
- We want to let ourselves loose – even “grow wild”.
A life you don’t want to escape?
“Imagine living a life you don’t want to escape,” I said to Ms. G. It didn’t really go anywhere though. It was the end of the work day, and Ms. G had to leave and pick up her kids. There would be supper to make, homework to supervise, activities to drive to, and bed-time routines to oversee.
But it’s not a bad thought. Can you imagine a life that you wouldn’t want to escape? In what ways is it different from the life you’re leading now? What can you do to take a step closer to it? I’m going to guess that most of us would like lives characterized by less stress, greater freedom to pursue our fun, fewer pressures, and more time for the people and the work we love. I’m also going to guess that finances are the biggest barrier between you and that life, and that any step you can take towards financial strength is a step towards it.
“Do you have mixed feelings about it?” I asked Ms. G.
“Oh yes,” she said, “because of course that $3,000 could be going towards something else. But we’ll have it all paid off by the time we actually go on the trip.”
I believe that Ms. G and her family will have a wonderful trip. I know that they’ll all look forward to it in the months ahead, and I hope that it will offer the escape that they seek. But what I wish for them even more – what I wish for all of us – is that we would know what to do to cultivate that day-to-day life we can only imagine. A life filled with things we look forward to. One that leave us with no desire to escape.