I need to get back to work.
ASTORIA, New York- It is suiting that the NFL season starts to come to a close with the end of the calendar year. It feels good to cerebrally cap two things off at the same time, move on and do something else. All travelers should have seasons — certain times of the year where you do certain things in certain places. I.e. go south in the winter, north in the summer, etc. It’s how the nomads do things and it provides that needed mix of variety with continuity.
I’ve found continuity to be oddly valuable the more I travel. Building a mutual history with people, truly knowing places, having deeper encounters, and, momentarily, being a part of your surroundings adds layers of depth to the travel experience. While being that random ghost breezing through unfamiliar locales is still the hallmark of the profession, stopping into regular stations from time to time “where everyone knows your name” is necessary to get the most out of the lifestyle — to get the most out of life.
It’s kind of silly in a way, but football seasons have become measuring sticks of my life. Each season is intricately woven into the fabric of what I do, where I go, and who I’m with. Even before I starting going to games I would watch them on my laptop and phone, earmarking the places that I am and the projects that I’m working on. I get this emphmeral feeling whenever a football season ends, as it’s another log of life tossed on the fire. We all only have so many of these to burn.
The careers of athletes represent eras of life. It’s a little silly but you watch as these young rookies become aging vets and retire and then you look back at yourself and realize that 10 years have passed. You remember things they did on the field and that gets intermingled with events that happened in your life. On the template of memory these two things become blurred, with one indelibly representing the other.
Such markers of time going by are valuable. The give you an opportunity to stop and ask, “Is this the life I want to be living? Am I still on the path? Should I keep trusting the process?”
This past season I went to seven games. I attended two with my best friend Erik, two with my dad, one with Stubbs, one with my daughter Petra, and I went to one alone. This is the way that I connect and maintain relationships with “my people” each year. It gives us something to talk about; something to do; something to look forward to together. I know it’s dumb but it serves a vital social function.
However, it’s a social function that comes with sacrifices. My work is predicated upon being able to go anywhere at anytime. Football messes this up. While I miss weeks and still travel throughout the autumn I’m doing so at half pace. I try to avoid making travel commitments and put off research travels. While I sometimes travel for football, it’s purely recreation. I’ve written about it a few times and have already extracted the sap from that story. I also stay at my parents’ house when I go to home games. Oftentimes, I stay for a week or more … which means I’m not working for a week or more. One of the main reasons that I’m based in New York City right now, I have to admit, is easy access to Orchard Park. I work in Asia, I should probably be based in Asia.
It’s really a matter of priorities, a traveler choosing his tribe vs. the open road. While I justify everything by saying that football only lasts a few months a year and that I can throw a little detour into my travels, I’m not sure if the house of cards can keep standing if I were to keep doing this.
I don’t know about next season. I’ve written this story for all it’s worth. I’m not a sports reporter. This may be it for me.
I need to get back to work.
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