Signs of fall begin to show their faces; the distant mountains are glowing with a winter-like light. Color has not yet kissed the trees, though they have started to turn from brilliant to dull greens with a slight hint of decay.

Cracking Voices

Baby loons who have spent the summer at flight school are awkwardly soaring overhead as they excitedly shout, “I’m flying! Look at me, I’m flying!” in their immature, cracking loon voices. Their big trip to Florida is just around the corner. 

The sounds of silence have begun: fewer passing boats, fewer sounds of wakes hitting the shore, fewer sounds of glee from water skiing and tubing kids. Some will be back for a last hurrah for Labor Day. 

Senior Year

It’s weirdly silent around here, as my wife and two of the triplets have gone back for the start of senior year in high school. I’ll soon follow them after some meetings that will keep me here till Labor Day. 

Leaving here is the saddest part of our year, just as arriving is our happiest.

Over the past few years, when my family stayed at my dad’s place on the lake, we’ve known his “listed” camp could be sold at any moment, and each year when we left, we assumed it was our last. Now that we have our own place, it’s reassuring that we’ll be back, God willing. 

Leaving the Nest

Next season will be filled with the angst of our own little loons flying off, with three off to college at once and the start of their independence. Our hope is that this place will be a magnet to draw the kids and their eventual families back to us. I cherish each hour with these kids, even the toughest moments of their emotional or hormonal discord.

How will we write the next chapter? In what ways will it be written for us?

Mission Accomplished

When the kids were born I crafted a grand plan that took years of hard work to implement. The goal was to not travel, and to be with the family all summer at the lake so they could spend every summer of their new lives here. Mission accomplished. They came here at four months and have not missed a summer yet, with this their 17th. One hopes they’ll consider staying here, like people we’ve met on the lake who have lived every summer of their lives here. One man across the lake is finishing summer number 88, and many of his childhood friends, who also spent summers here, are still with him. The deep friendships my kids have made on this lake stand a chance to be lifelong as they spend the summers here throughout their lives.

Crafting the ability to work from here and avoid business travel for the summer months was a logistical nightmare. It was only made possible  because we made a plan and spent years laying out how to put ourselves in a position to make it work. 

Time for a New Plan

Now Laurie and I have to build a new plan for this next chapter with three kids of the same age in college at once, and what to do with our newfound time together. Retirement isn’t in my DNA, but taking more time for more fun stuff is. It’s time now to make the plan, which will have to be implemented by this time next year.

What’s your plan?

Are you like a pinball, bouncing from place to place randomly? Or do you have a roadmap with a destination, but still willing to make some random exits for adventure?

Wandering Aimlessly

Goals and plans were ingrained in me at a young age, though I admit it took me years to actually start using them. I spent a few years wandering aimlessly, trying to find myself, but once I knew what I wanted to pursue, I made a plan and lived it. 

Tremendous Courage

I watch my own kids and their friends. Some know exactly what they want, but most are still searching. Though they usually figure it out, it’s not always easy. For instance, a middle-aged neighbor who completed med school and most of his residency woke up realizing he didn’t like being a doctor. So after investing years, he had the courage to drop out. 

I once hired an editor who completed law school, worked in a firm, was making more money than she thought possible, and knew within a couple of years that law was not for her. Her dream was to become an editor. 

These kinds of decisions are not easy, so most of us tend to get stuck because of our reliance on the money we make, the commitment we made, or because it’s what our parents wanted for us. 

Define Success

Is your life a success if you awaken daily and hate your job? One man I met this week told me he loved retirement because he’d spent his life in a job he hated. What if he had never made it to retirement? 

Find out what you love, make a plan, then do what you love. And if you get tired of it, bored, or you don’t love it anymore, have the courage to move on, no matter how good the money is. The strings will only get more difficult to unwind. I have a friend who was making millions as an attorney, dropped out, and has struggled to survive living as an artist, and he is the happiest he has ever been. Money did not buy him happiness. 

Plan for joy. 

Life won’t always be joyful, and getting where you want to be won’t always be joy-filled or easy. Tough tasks are worthwhile when they ultimately lead you to a place of joy. I have no problem spending years laying the groundwork to get where I ultimately want to be, because I am focusing on implementing the roadmap for the future. 

Plans are needed at every new chapter. Have you made yours?

Eric Rhoads

PS: You might be thinking that having a plan sounds boring. Being spontaneous is also important. Though I love having a year or two to look forward to things like art trips, painting trips, or family vacations, it’s also fun to take an occasional left turn and make a spontaneous decision. If that’s you, our 10th-year Fine Art Trip is doing a pilgrimage to the land of Van Gogh, Cesanne, Picasso, and many other artists and art treasures in the South of France. It’s coming up in October, and there should still be a seat or two left unless they’ve sold since I last checked on Thursday. 

Since Labor Day is upon us, I hope you have a great Labor Day weekend. Take the time to do something special.