I spent the last five or six days on the beach in Florida on an extended fall break. In the process, I may have figured out the key to happiness. This is probably not surprising.
The key to happiness does not involve social media or faculty meetings. It does involve lots of good books and family. There’s very little checking of e-mail or, in fact, turning on your computer at all. There are lots of walks on the beach, preferably while holding hands. You may need to spend several hours daily in a chair, watching the waves and thinking of nothing. If you can at all stand it, wade out into the ocean and float on the waves. If unpleasant thoughts arise, don’t be afraid to disappear inside a book, a conversation, or an ice-cold gin and tonic. Any of these will do.
It helps to go someplace that is both magical and familiar. I personally find the presence of ibises helpful, as well as terns that glide over the water so close you can’t help but reach your hand up to try to touch them as they pass. Never underestimate the simple pleasure of finding sea shells rolling in the surf at your feet.
Stay as long as you can, but when you get back, don’t forget the things you’ve learned. Step into your living room and admire the afternoon light through the windows. Walk along the river. Take time to make a tomato sauce that simmers on the stove for hours. Go slow. The important things will wait.