Vacation and retirement

I am starting to realize that, once you reach a certain point in your career, the idea of a “vacation” or “personal time off” becomes a polite fiction, not unlike the forty-hour workweek.

Perhaps this is the reason that “retirement” as a general concept retains its popularity. I feel like I’m saving up all of my vacation hours to put toward the day when I no longer need to work eleven, fifteen, or even eight hours a day, 5-7 days a week.

To me, the ideal retirement would not be the lack of work, but the twenty-hour work week, a schedule that would allow me time to think, time to read, time to pray, and time to write.

I intend to start that before I reach 57. I have no idea whether I’ll be successful at it, but it is what I am working toward, and, frankly, what is keeping me going on those days when I close the computer at 11pm after having opened it at 5am. I doubt I can sustain my current pace of work much beyond that time without putting myself in therapy, in hospital, or in a pine box. I know that sounds a bit melodramatic, and admittedly, it could be andropause talking, but it’s how I’m starting to feel.

History is back

A great problem with too many of us is that, subconsciously or otherwise, we bought into this idea that the tectonic political changes of 1989 had brought about a world where the rules had changed. This is the essence of Francis Fukuyama’s treatise “The End of History,” but the problem went even further. We began to believe that the normal rules that applied to business, to markets, and to nations no longer applied.

In the end, we will find that history does not end, even if sometimes it seems to take a sabbatical. Despite a flirtation with the contrary, the past decade has proven that the world is not on a path to liberal democracy and global markets: Russia is still the rapacious yet insecure bear; that China is still the nation and culture of Confucius, Mencius, Sunzi, and Mao; that businesses must still make money; nationalism still trumps globalism; and that markets cannot soar forever purely based on exuberance and a near-term lack of better investment alternatives.

History is back, and if you don’t watch out, it will maul you. It’s a great time to be an historian.