by Paul Stafford
Driving through the East Texas piney woods, traveling to and through a place I frequented in my youth, I momentarily ignore the day’s distractions and modern challenges for an opportunity to reconnect with a simpler time and place—even if solely in one’s mind.
My thoughts turn to summers past and present. I’m reminded of summer camp, and I again realize that the experiences of my youth are instructive today—personally and professionally.
As you know, in the U.S. and throughout most western cultures, people utilize August and the preceding summer months as a period of reflection, relaxation, reconnection and renewal. Across the Atlantic, the month of August is when much of Europe is on “holiday”—a month-long end-of-summer respite from the demands of the work-a-day world.
In contrast, Americans work more hours than their European counterparts, and they do not usually take the entire month of August off; however, they do take time to get away, relax and spend time with friends and family. Time off from work improves productivity by allowing us to recharge. Vacations, “stay-cations,” excursions, reunions, retreats...you name it. There are innumerable ways in which to pass the time.
Many of us have completed, or are in the midst of, their summer stay-cations and vacations, traversing the U.S. and beyond in the hope of relaxing and discovering some form of tranquility.
Adults often embark on adventures to places reminiscent of their past—a past filled with memories of their youth. Children often accompany adults on these adventures (sometimes by choice); however, children do not long for nostalgia, but for journeys to places unseen, or for excitement un-experienced.
Growing up, summertime was a welcome reprieve from school and August always seemed so far away. I worked various odd-jobs, but nothing steady or overly strenuous. Summers were slow, and mostly easy. Vacations were a rarity. What we now call “stay-cations” were the norm for me. But summer also usually included a trip to camp.
Most kids love camp, and I was no exception. Camp is where kids learn to control their apprehension, stretch their boundaries, take risks with caution and make new friends. Camp is where kids grow. They then return to their respective homes, youthful yet more mature and ready for life’s challenges in the months ahead.
As adults, we could learn a lot from young campers. Many of us will travel domestically or abroad, spend time with family and friends, experience new things and prepare for the remainder of a busy year. Whether we take-off a month, a week or a day—whether it’s solo, with a companion, or with family—whether it’s with a small group or large group—we should take time to reflex, relax, reconnect and renew.
As for attorneys, we value hard work and success but we should be particularly aware of the stress related to our profession and respect it by occasionally taking some time for ourselves. Just like the youthful campers, when we take a break and recharge, we remove personal and professional apprehension, stretch our boundaries, refine our instincts and enhance our network. When we couple these breaks with CLE seminars or other bar-related activities, we’ll improve our professional knowledge, and may also hear about activities and programming in which other bar associations are involved. We will also let other attorneys and bars know about the goings-on at the DBA, particularly in the general area of promoting work-life balance and peer assistance.
And so, we are reminded that August is upon us, as summer begins its end and rolls towards autumn. We are also reminded that through reflection, relaxation, reconnection and renewal, we can become more at ease with ourselves, more appreciative and understanding of others, and more productive to our profession.