Summer of `86 Revisited

The summer of 1986 I was 14 and about to start high school in September.  I knew it was vital to take stock over the summer months because I was certain that something monumental was going to happen.

The year before I had moved from the suburbs to the country, but remained at the same school as my friends.  However, I was now beyond the reach of public transportation and at the mercy of whether my parents were available or in the mood to drive me into town again.

So the bulk of that summer before grade 9 was spent on my own.  I didn`t have a job, beyond the odd babysitting gig, and my only means of transportation was my bike.  I spent my days reading, watching tv, sun-tanning, riding my bike for hours (closest corner store was 10 km away), pretending to work on my bike (putting oil on the chain and washing it), playing softball a couple of nights a week, and trying to stay in the loop on what was happening among my friends in the city.  I did get in to see them once in awhile and some even came out for a visit.

Given that no one was there to pass judgement on what I did,  I watched countless episodes of You Can`t Do That on Television, The Little Rascals, and Australian rules football.  Don`t ask, we had a satellite and I had a lot of time on my hands.

I poured over the IKEA catalogue planning what my room, and eventually my first apartment could look like.  I listened to music, mainly Bowie and whatever Top 40 band I was into at the time (*cough* Platinum Blonde *cough*).

All the while, there was this feeling that I was missing something, that I should be doing something or be somewhere to prepare for that monumental thing called high school.  I mean, I had seen enough movies and read enough Seventeen magazines to know that high school was life-changing and it was critical that I made the right choices (hair, clothes, grades, the way you talked to boys, the way you acted). And I was certain the despite successfully navigating my way through the first fourteen years of my life, and being fairly content with it all, I needed to get in there, figure things out quick and change.


The summer of 2019 and I am…well…(oh just do the math) and I am about to go back to work after taking five weeks off.  I knew that it was important that I take stock because I thought that something monumental was going to happen following this break.

I haven`t blogged in awhile, but a quick review of the past few posts might give an indication as to the challenging year and a half, both personally and professionally.  I was starting to wonder how long I would keep it together and then I started to not really care.

Maybe I just needed time off, maybe I need a new job, maybe I need a new career, maybe I should just suck it up.  This refrain ran through my head every day.  I searched for inspiration on what to do and I came across countless `find your passion`articles that told tales of people who left everything to bake artisanal bread, brew kombucha, and live in a tiny home.  Maybe I should do that.  What are my talents? What am I willing to give up?  How can I change?

And then there was a fantastic Twitter exchange sparked by a single question asking what people have read or done to re-evaluate their career mid-life.  I waited with baited breath to see what people would suggest and once it got started I essentially hijacked the thread (@janewatsonhr assures me I didn`t…but I did).  People talked about their experiences stepping off the path, taking time off, and exploring or learning new things.

I felt this came at a time when I needed to hear this and jumped all over it.  I started to consider taking 6-months off to learn something new.  Then I dropped it down to a more reasonable 3-month period…I could still discover who I should be in 3 months, couldn`t I?  And then I talked to my husband who asked some pointed, but good questions, like: `what do you really want to do right now?`

And the answer hit me: rest.  To rest and reset.

So, I cobbled together my vacation time and took five weeks off with the aim to rest, reset…and if I am being honest, still hoping to have some kind of epiphany about what I should be doing with the rest of my life.

I didn`t have big plans, I made lists of things to do, people to see, things to take care of and a few day trips.  I did a lot of gardening, baking bread (oh yes, I did), reading, and just trying to relax.

For the record, trying to relax when you are anxious is like trying to fall asleep when you have insomnia.  So for a good two weeks, I did stuff, but kept feeling like I was wasting my time and opportunity.  I did not think about work at all, I did not check my emails or even look at my laptop once during the 5 weeks…and yet, I felt like I was constantly preparing for my performance evaluation.  What have I done during my time off, how will I demonstrate value, what have I learned, how will I show my colleagues who are covering for me that my time off was worth it? When will I start to see the Big Picture?

And then I finally had my epiphany.

Someone asked me whether I was dreading going back to work and I said no I wasn`t.  I like my job and the work I do. I like the people I work with.  I don`t really want to change any of that.  I realized that I am actually solid with what I am doing and who I am.  I am good with my quiet lifestyle away from the city, doing my own thing and reading what I want, watching what I want, and guess what, what I do on my vacation is nobody`s gd business.

So in September 1986, when I realized that almost everyone was the same as they were in June and were busy trying to figure it all while doing their trips, jobs and camps  over the summer, I realized that I had been given the opportunity to just chill out and be myself for awhile.

I am so grateful to have had the same opportunity this summer. After all, sometimes a rest is as good as a change.


One thought on “Summer of `86 Revisited

  1. Great story, Julie! It was probably a relief when your epiphany turned out to be that status quo is actually okay with you.

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