I don’t mean to deceive anyone. It’s just that it’s so much easier to write about my highlights… and make light of darker moments.
Okay, so “fraud” is too strong a word… but it made for a catchy title. (See! You can’t even trust my blog posts!) The fact is that while I am, in fact, “living the dream,” I have to confess… the Clan Cameron is not always a smiling, happy-go-lucky foursome, galavanting our way across distant lands like gypsies in our modern day caravan.
Like most people, I worked very hard for a lot of years. Unlike most people, I haven’t had to work very hard — at least not in the way that most people define”work,” over the past few years. I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with my family, to focus on creative endeavours, and to follow the sun. It has been a truly amazing time, for the most part, and I am in many ways deeply appreciative of this opportunity. But in other ways, this has been the most difficult period of my life.
The thing is, I like work. I like the feeling of accomplishment for a job well done. I like the camaraderie of an office, pulling together to meet a deadline. And I like the heads-down focus required to pour myself into a new learning experience. This is why I’ve invested so wholly in writing a novel; as a wise woman once told me, “How we do anything is how we do everything.” But as I begin to take on consultation projects and other commitments, I remember why I walked away from the work I used to do: because it is all too easy to spend a lot of energy solving problems, and much more difficult to question why those problems exist in the first place — or if they really matter.
When our family set sail on a camper van adventure almost four years ago, I was determined to live a life less ordinary (I know it’s a movie title, but it’s a great one), to show my kids the world and have them gush with appreciation at what a wonderful dad I am. We were going to be shiny, happy people (can’t resist song titles either), driving off into the sunset to explore planet Earth in suits of impenetrable “happiness armour.” Not only were we going to see the world; we were going to change it!
Of course, life is not quite that simple. Our days now look much like they did before, although they are spent in many different places. Whether walking Chesterman Beach in Tofino or hiking the Grand Canyon or cruising by the Hubbard Glacier or strolling through Disneyland or sunning ourselves by the pool in Palm Desert, we still have to eat, breathe, sleep and crap like everyone else. Despite some minor inconveniences like hernia surgery and a faulty gallbladder (which landed me a ride from Epcot Center to an Orlando hospital, almost caused the cancellation of a subsequent trip to Arizona and eventually got yanked out of me after a 3-night hospital stay in Powell River), I realize that by anyone’s standards my past four years have been idyllic. When I said “minor inconveniences,” I meant it; I try to retain a healthy perspective on things, and those very fixable health issues made me more appreciative of my lot in life, not less. But the fact remains that we still live with the same kind of day-to-day challenges that every family deals with.
So why do I feel like a fraud? Because in the world of public perception, my life is supposed to be perfect. Countless people have told me how “lucky” I am to have so much time with my family (I am), or how they wish they could take off on an adventure like us (I will bite my tongue on this one, because everyone’s situation is different). But it has led me to realize the burden of happiness that comes with being a person through whom others live vicariously! In reality, little known to most of my friends and family, I am living vicariously through them as well… just in different ways. For whenever we take one path — say, taking off on a trip across North America — we are missing others: taking part in a local theatre group; developing local friendships; playing hockey every Friday; watching a garden grow…
So next time I post about that great trip to Whereverland where we saw Whoyoumawhatchits running wild through the Thingamajigs, accompanied by pictures of four beaming, suntanned Camerons, understand that I’ve chosen to leave out a few things… the argument over where to eat breakfast; the tears over a skinned knee; the meltdowns, tummy aches and roadside bathroom breaks; that minor spill at the sewer dump; the heat exhaustion followed by a surprisingly cold desert night; and all those other little things that make up a day in the life. But hey, without those less-than-stellar experiences, the view from Cedar Ridge over the grandest canyon of them all wouldn’t seem quite so amazing.