Flashback to eight years old, I am riding in the back of the family station wagon on the way to our grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania from Maryland. “Are we there yet?” A four-hour car ride seemed like an eternity.
Flash forward, twenty-five years later. My pre-school age nephew instructs me on how to install his car seat and strap him in, because I don’t have a clue. Staring at him harnessed in, not being able to crawl around in the backseat to entertain himself, made me wonder if I could have made the trip to grandmother’s house, under the same restrictive conditions, at the same age, without going bonkers.
Forward another eight years. I’m looking at a spreadsheet through glazed eyes, in a windowless office, going bat-shit crazy. Roughly 500 days until I give my resignation.
Five hundred days.
I might as well be strapped in a car seat on my way to Pennsylvania. So close, but it feels like the distance to Mars.
Five hundred days is roughly the shortest estimated length of a round-trip manned mission to Mars. Although not stuck in a tin can with a rocket strapped to my keister, I can imagine the isolation and boredom.
Sarah and I are isolated because we must be guarded with our plans. First, because sharing this information could potentially jeopardize our working lives. We continue to save and invest and are counting on being gainfully employed. Secondly, there are a myraid of happenings in the interim that could derail our plans.
Reading about the effects of isolation seems like my personal mental health checklist: irritability, depression, insomnia, absent-mindedness, difficulty in concentration and memory. The last two I can chalk up to getting old. In dog years, well, I’d be dead.
Work does not define me, but the boredom of being stuck in middle management is barely tolerable. Yes, I suffer from white people problems. You can skip the fiddles. The occasional project provides some mental stimulation, but nowhere near the level of being out on the road.
From 2001 through 2002 and a bit in 2003, I was pedaling, constantly meeting new people, seeing new places, experiencing new food, and committing every faux pas possible operating in different cultures and languages.
Humans crave novelty, and not in the form of “team building.” That’s what caused our ancestors, millions of years ago, to get tired of grooming each other and promptly put down the lice and invent Pong.
500 days. Mars never seemed so close.