For whatever reason, though, over the past few months, I let the pile grow without culling, and when I took advantage of this rainy weekend past to do some indoor projects, cleaning up that cubby was near the top of the list.
As a general rule, I don't wax rhapsodic about cleaning out my closet, but as I was sorting through the debris, which by the nature of gravity and stacking was in roughly chronological order, I had an opportunity to revisit the highlights of what was a relatively normal summer after a couple of pandemic-induced outliers.
The ticket stub from a Down East Wood Ducks game I attended as part of an economic development conference in Kinston; a receipt from The Fish House in Wrightsville Beach; a business card from an author I met at a street festival in Davidson; tickets from "Jurassic World: Dominion," and "Thor: Love and Thunder," and "Nope;" a sticker from Royal Bliss Brewing; a 3-day Ohio visitor fishing license. Precious reminders of how great life can be and how fragile it is.
During a stage of my life I sometimes refer to as John 1.0 and sometimes call my "driven" phase, summers weren't extraordinary. For a good part of my middle years, I traveled extensively for work, rarely got home before 7 or 8 those nights I did sleep in my own bed, and went into the office every Saturday. I remember waking up one beautiful summer Saturday in what must have been '92 or '93 and spontaneously deciding to go to the beach instead of into the office. I felt like a degenerate bum the whole day. Mind you, Saturdays in the office weren't required; it was just a thing I did.
In those days, going to see a single movie, sporting event, or concert over the course of an entire summer was a significant concession to leisure. In that sense, summer 1991 was "the summer of Terminator 2," and 1994 was "the summer of Gordon Lightfoot." The pandemic summers felt a little like that.
Do I regret working hard and making something of myself? Of course not. But looking over the receipts and ticket stubs of a rich and exciting summer of movies, concerts, craft breweries, and baseball games, I can't help but regret not finding a more reasonable work-life balance just a few years earlier.