Do it while you’re young

( Daring to post-covid dream)

There’s a story in my family that has become our motto. Once upon a time, my mom was talking to my great-aunt Betty, telling her about her upcoming trip to Italy. My mom, who was nearing 70 and hadn’t been out of the country for quite a while, was telling Aunt Betty how she was feeling a bit nervous about the whole thing. Aunt Betty, then in her late 90’s, ignored all that and said “Oh, do it while you’re young! I never regretted any of my trips”. So whenever I feel time creeping up on me, I think of her, and I think of how my future self will likely look back on this time as a golden age. Young is always relative.

Recently I was talking with an American friend here in Montpellier, who is 71. She was saying how her time was starting to feel finite, that the end was in sight. (This woman is no slouch in the adventure department, she up and moved to France solo, and only last year.) Now, no one knows when the big bus in the sky has got their name on it, but I pointed out to my friend that statistically speaking, she could expect another 2 decades. 20 years ! That’s long enough to raise a kid to maturity, get a couple of degrees, or become fluent in a few languages. Not that I would expect that of my friend or of myself, but it did get me thinking about my next decades (good lord willing and the bus don’t come). I don’t want to go gentle into that good night with my major concern being what’s for lunch.

I like to get up early, really early in the morning and sit in the quiet and think my thinky thoughts. After that conversation, in those clear, early morning, cup-of-coffee hours, what still made sense to me was extensive travel. The writer Marguerite Yourcenar called her travels “the tour of the prison”. As long as we’re stuck here in this world, we might as well take a good look around and see what it’s about. We’ve been fortunate enough to have already taken a good look at a good part of the world, but it’s still a thrill.

Mark and I have gotten to do what we’ve gotten to do in life by having goals. For many years we regularly wrote out 3 month, 1 year, and 5 year goals. Granted, our 5 year goal of quitting our jobs to travel for a year got pushed back a number of times till it became retire early and travel, but none of it would have happened without keeping the goal in sight. Since we’ve hit that target, we’ve stopped writing new ones. Then the pandemic struck, which not only stole our daily routines, it also wiped out our ideas of the future. With the promise of a vaccine, I’m starting to reclaim them, while keeping in mind that the future, as always, is subject to change.

My new goals:

  • 3 months. Stay hunkered down. Covid winter is just beginning. Keep up the meditation program and the regular exercise. Aunt Betty has another quote attributed to her: “When the legs go, it’s over.” Start resurrecting my Spanish.
  • 1 year. Good lord willing and the vaccine arrives, keep the plan of extensively traveling the various regions of France for a month at a time. Shoehorn ourselves back in to the Paris tiny house as a base for the time being.
  • 3 to 5 years. Get our 10 year residency cards and go live in another country for a while. (I know, that sounds contradictory, but it’s not really. I won’t bore you with French visa rules.) Be conversational, if not fluent in that language.
  • 20 years? I’m still wrapping my head around that one. More early morning coffee needed.

This dream of reaching a post-covid world is thanks to a bunch of very smart and committed people devoting years if not decades to becoming vaccine scientists. I’m neither that intelligent nor that ambitious, but I do want the rest of my time to be devoted to learning and exploring, and not increasing my comforts. My ambitions are not world-changing, but instead about changing my world, which is all I can do.

We’ll find out tonight when France will be out of lockdown. I’m going to treat any deconfinement as a pre-reconfinement because it ain’t over. And I’m sorry to point it out, but this pandemic probably isn’t our last. All the factors leading to another pandemic are still in place. Whatever you decide to do my dears, do it while you’re young.

How are things in your neck of the woods?

Could that be a ray of sunshine?


  1. MareWhat a mysterious picture sure it means good things ahead. I am still in DC likely traveling to N’dJamena Chad mid December. Unfortunately if Patty hasn’t told you she fell off a ladder in the house on the basement steps broken her distal leg and ankle in 2 places. She had surgery yesterday. She reported she was doing well last night. Just wanted u guys to know your friend was hurt but on the mend.Stay healthy  All the best Maureen

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  2. I like goal setting too, my main goal now is quiet time. It is usually before dawn, cup of coffee. Sometimes it winds up being three cups of coffee, the birds get up and I just watch them and anything else that moves in my vast front yard.
    Before you know it I’ve been sitting and the setting has been put off for a time.
    Talk with you and Mark in a couple days.

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