The Off Season

It’s nearly August, and the city is emptying of its citizens as they depart for their summer holidays. This time of year, the beaches team with people — even in an age of pandemic. Hotels and resorts are booked solid, and charging astronomical summer prices. It’s the Annual Holiday, marked by an exodus to the countryside, mostly the coast.

Most office workers continue to “work from anywhere.” The usual urban attractions — events, museums, restaurants, theaters — are either cancelled, closed or risky. Those who can have decamped for longer stays outside the city.

This is usually the time of year when we hunker down at home and wait for the first wisps of fall. Families return to school and work. The prices of hotels, restaurants and rental cars go down. The crowds dissipate. The weather cools. Then we make our escape.

We take our holiday in the off season.

In a few ways, we are also living our life in the off season. We zigged as many others zagged. Expats here tend to fall into two categories —

  • The young who are starting off their professional lives and are in an exploratory phase, or
  • The retirees who have chosen Portugal as their new home from which they will gaze to the sunset, literally and figuratively.

We are solidly neither of those. We are both still fully engaged in our careers. Yet, we remain something of a curiosity, having left established lives and successful careers to “start over.”

Despite the declaration in Ecclesiastes (and popularized by The Byrds) that “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose…” we seem to be creating our seasonality.

Living in the off season is opportunistic and unnerving. As our friends at home are paying off their homes, we’re renting a small apartment without a clear idea of what is next. What was a question in 2019 — where and how will we live? — has now become an abyss in 2020 — we don’t even know under what context we might make a decision moving forward.

Switching to a new life in a new country is not for the faint of heart. We purposely chose this time, while we were still healthy and fit. The Great Purge while in mid-life was an important, if exhausting, exercise in “taking stock” and paring down. I can’t imagine trying to do that in my 70s or 80s.

Just as physical exercise when you’re younger increases your chances of aging well, exercising our resilience muscles may be helping us to navigate this uncertainty.

This moment in time may not be an aberration. It’s scary to think about it, but today’s uncertainty may, in fact, be a tipping point for life ahead. Moving with the tug of your own instinct — and learning to dial it in over fear, judgment, and other negative influences — may be the only way to stay sane through it all.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

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