I played hooky from my own office the other day. The sky was blue, the temperature about 80 degrees, and since my gaze kept being drawn to the window, I continuously lost my place in the contract I was supposed to scrutinize. I called my husband to see if he wanted to join me in bailing out (he's self-employed, too). To my delight, he readily accepted, and about 30 minutes later, we were walking along the boardwalk on a beach beside the Long Island Sound.
On the sand were a woman and man of indeterminate age, trying to fly what appeared to be a fairly plain red kite. She was in charge of the string and he was in charge of hoisting the kite to catch the barely blowing breeze. As we were just happy to be out of the office, my husband and I paused along the railing to watch the interplay between the couple as they tussled with the string and the kite and an uncooperative Mother Nature.
Within the same small stretch of beach, always parallel to the waves, she'd back up while he ran towards her, holding the kite aloft. It would ride a gust for three, four or as much as 20 seconds before eventually plunging back to earth. Over and over and over again, she'd reel out the string (never enough, per my husband) and he'd try to will the scant wind to elevate the kite above their heads.
The running and plunging continued, despite the lack of any meaningful success. She didn't give up and he didn't give in, so we resumed our carefree beachside stroll. Every so often my husband and I would look back, somehow reassured that they were still trying even as we expressed a bit of bewilderment at their dedication to what appeared a hopeless cause.
Then it dawned on me that they probably didn't care all that much if their kite soared or smashed into the sand. She probably realized that each time she ran and reeled her efforts would not be rewarded, yet she continued scurrying while coaxing a plaything to rise above the earth. He was just as likely to know the kite would nose-dive shortly after its launch no matter how much body English he employed as he implored it ever upwards. What these people on the beach were doing on this stunning summer's day was just having fun!
I am certain the kite fliers were oblivious to our observations, yet they turned my escape from a relentlessly backbreaking workload into a lesson about the virtues of underachievement. I give them a lot of credit for not caring about the outcome of their afternoon's pursuit, as they seemed content to sweet-talk some paper, sticks and string to try and fly, though the odds were certainly tilted towards failure. During this recession we're all living through, I've admittedly often forgotten that there are many components of a well-lived life that have nothing to do with earning a living. Though my spontaneous inclination to play hooky was a step in the right direction, that cavorting couple on the beach were light-years ahead of me in realizing that aspiration and achievement are not always the same thing.