The other day I found myself on a hike just outside of Mexico City with a friend with a beautiful wife and child. We sounded like two accomplished middle aged men who were quite happy with their work and personal lives. Although we are, each in our own way, underachievers, we have both reached a stage in our careers where where we are quite happy at our academic institutions and satisfied with our incomes as we plot our way forward in the world.
We talked about work and its travails and opportunities, each of us outlining short and medium-steps to the other about a way forward with clarity and immense satisfaction because we both appreciate the sacrifices we have made to become scholar/educators. We know, moreover, that we are lucky to have good jobs with lots of freedom for creativity in and out of the classroom and some budget for travel. Becoming an academic is increasingly becoming a Quixotic enterprise, an impossible dream.
We also chatted about economic challenges and how we would tackle them. So we talked of our income streams and markets, and the varieties of investment assets that we weighed these against looming liabilities. The upshot is that we both need professional help, someone to model and forecast for us so we can meet our obligations to ourselves and loved ones.
Finally, we talked of family and the things we live for in addition to our enriching work. Balancing family and work in my friend’s case. As for me, I am marching on an unconventional path with most of my time and energy dedicated to work and athletic pursuits. The latter, for health and longevity reasons in addition to the passion that I have for long distance sports that I have never come close to fulfilling. I enjoy the former, a lot, but I am beginning to think about writing and thinking more on sundry topics that I care deeply about (many are highlighted in this blog), in order to begin fashioning essays and, eventually, a book. In short, I want to write and live as much as possible during the next 35-40 years of productive life that I have left.
During the last phase of our hike to the top of the Desierto de los Leones, my friend and I discussed cycling and, in particular, how we would maneuver down a rather technical mountain bike trail that we climbed along. We discussed possible lines we would take and weighed the risks associated with the available options. Only later did I realize how apt the metaphor of mountainbiking was for our conversation, each of us realizing that we do not spend enough time on our bikes.
The next day I had the privilege of accompanying him with his wife and daughter to a toy store to pick up a tricycle. The previous day, I had bought a tiny hand-made decorative bicycle, a purple one I believe, that I deliberately left with him even though I initially bought it for myself. I want him to keep it, so he can remember to make more time for riding as I will be doing in the days ahead.