Editor's Note

The Journey Is the Reward

The Journey Is the Reward

By Eric Harding

AS WE SLING OUR PACKS OVER OUR SHOULDER, we often set our sights on the destination—a breathtaking summit, a serene lake, or a hidden waterfall. However, it’s often the journey that truly enriches our souls.

A personal anecdote comes to mind, one that embodies this ethos perfectly. Just last week, I took my two sons, ages 10 and 13, to Massanutten Resort in Virginia. Our adventure started with a summer ride on the ski lift, promising stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley. Excited for the destination—well, excited and trepidatious; my 10-year-old was a bit nervous about the mechanics of getting on and off the lift, but he persevered—we began our ascent.

The lift ride was exhilarating, with a cool breeze and panoramic vistas unfolding before us. The boys were thrilled, pointing out deer beneath our dangling feet and distant mountains. We chatted about the hike ahead, our spirits high as we reached the top and began our descent on foot.
However, as we started hiking down the trail, I realized I had made a crucial mistake—I was wearing the wrong shoes. Instead of my trusty hiking boots, I had on a pair of casual sneakers with little support. They may have been made with recycled soda bottles, but they did little for my arches. With every step, I could feel the rocky terrain pressing into my soles, and soon enough, my feet began to ache.

My sons were undeterred. They bounded ahead, their laughter echoing through the trees. Determined to keep up, I tried to focus on the beauty around us—the towering pines, the sun-dappled path, and the distant sounds of wildlife. But as the trail grew steeper and more challenging, my poor feet became impossible to ignore.

About halfway down, we reached a midway point where the ski lift made a stop. Relieved, I suggested we catch a ride back down from there. My boys, sensing my discomfort, acquiesced. We hopped back on the lift, and as we descended, I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. What started as a hiking adventure turned into a lesson about the importance of proper footwear.

While the hike didn’t go as planned, it was still a memorable experience. The journey, though cut short, was filled with laughter, bonding, and the simple joy of being together in nature. It is this spirit of discovery and adaptability that we celebrate in this issue. The journey, with all its twists and turns, is where the true magic lies.

Our cover story for this issue, “Four Letters—So Many Benefits,” dives into what it means to be a member of the Academy: an MAAA. From credibility and knowledge to networking and leadership, this designation confers a host of benefits and resources for practicing actuaries. Think of it as a toolbox, ready to help you tackle the various challenges you face throughout your career.

In our second feature, “MAAA in Focus,” we sat down with leadership from across the Academy to learn what their membership means to them. Their responses—honest, personal, and insightful—paint a vivid picture of the true nature of Academy membership. Read on; as you’ll see, the MAAA is both a destination in itself and a waypoint along a longer trajectory.

Our final feature, “On Fertility,” investigates a pressing problem—that of plummeting fertility rates. On a national scale, a low fertility rate brings with it a host of troubling issues. This feature looks at key reasons for plunging fertility rates, explores possible near-term policy interventions, and forecasts some ­longer-term implications of a baby bust.

Thank you, as ever, for reading. If you need me, I’ll be in the next room … with my feet up.

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