I’m a big believer in taking time away from work and email and text messages and social media. We need to for our own sanity.
But it’s hard, right? Work can follow most of us anywhere thanks to our phones, and it seems so much easier to just look at work email while we’re on vacation because we have so much to do and there’ll be a huge pile of work when we get back. Does that mean we’re really on vacation?
So I decided to actually go on vacation. Last week, I went on vacation across the country, and I left my work phone at home with the blessing of my wonderful boss. No text messages about car crashes, no emails telling me I’m everything wrong with journalism today, no phone calls with angry people telling me how horrible I am and no online commenters being, well online commenters.
My vacation was great (I’ll write about that in another post). Getting away from the negativity I deal with on a constant basis as a journalist (not a dig at my employer or coworkers, who are positive, fun people) was a blessing. I needed to feel like a real human again. A human in nature who can wonder at mountains and a delicious burger and the smell of flowers and something so grand it doesn’t even appear real—the Grand Canyon. I wanted to get away from the hum-drum so I could be in the moment and really wonder at the things right in front of me. Like an Olympian getting dinner.
When I came home Sunday night and turned on my work phone and opened my email, I found 85 emails (not including the junk). Most of them were routine newsletters and police crime logs. I could delete most of them without even reading them, and I got the whole mess clear in less than 10 minutes. No one had contacted me in a panic about something awful I did, I didn’t miss anything critical and when I came back to work today, I carried on as usual. It was a pretty normal Monday. In fact, I came back to “Hey, welcome back! How was your trip?” and praise for a story I wrote that published when I was off.
No, I’m not in charge of anyone and I’ve got great colleagues who I can always count on to step up and help out, but still. This was easy. Pretty cool.
Americans tend to leave behind four vacation days per year. I left six—SIX!—behind last year. Three rolled over to 2016, but I just wasted three of them. Three days of PAID VACATION. What the hell, me?!
We do not owe our jobs our lives. And the more we let ourselves get run down and burned out, the less we have to give to those jobs. Please, do yourself a favor. Go run around some mountains or sit on a beach or stay home and do your favorite things. Take your days off.
I certainly will. I’m planning a camping trip next month, another week-long camping trip to the U.P. sometime this summer and a trip to Washington, D.C. for a the Marine Corps Marathon. Those vacation days are going to good use, dammit. I earned them.