If we were having coffee, we would not be in a coffee shop today. We would be sitting out on the dock, in the shade of a cedar tree, watching the morning sunlight glistening off the waves in the lake. There is a green frog living under the deck who occasionally makes his presence known like the twang of a poorly tuned banjo. The air in the shade is cool, but not cold. Just the right temperature to still comfortably enjoy my favorite hoodie. But, you can feel that it is going to get hot today, and swimming is certainly on the agenda.
If you have been following my blog this week, you already know that I am on vacation. My wife and I have rented a cottage with my in-laws for two weeks out on a little lake in the Eastern Townships. There are a couple of small towns around that cater to cottage goers in the summer and skiers in the winter. There are hiking trails and swimming to pass the time. I also brought some books and LEGO, things I don’t normally have time for in “the real world”.
That brings me to the topic of our conversation today. I would like talk about the real world and the importance of leaving it behind from time to time. Sitting in the calm of our lake scene really makes you realize how un-calm life often is on a day-to-day basis. Did you know that most people don’t take the vacation time they are entitled to every year? We live in a society of workaholics. We feel like taking time off for vacations, or even being sick, reflects badly on us. We feel our employers and colleagues will frown on us and think we are slacking or not good workers.
The truth is, life in the real world is stressful. I won’t go into all the medical issues related with stress because there is a cornucopia of literature available on that already. The short version of it is that stress is bad for you. I don’t get much down time during the year because of work. I also fall into the trap of going to work when I am sick. I don’t get a choice in taking my vacation time, but I often work at home through my vacations. Last fall, I started a new job. I was so worried about making a good impression that I pushed myself too hard. I got sick, but kept on pushing. The flu turned into pneumonia and bronchitis, and I was really ill through Christmas. I then dealt with the after effects for months. My blog was born partially out of that stress. I came out realizing that I am only getting older, and my body doesn’t bounce back like it did in my 20s. I also reflected on my work habits, and realized that I was not taking time to do the things I enjoyed anymore, like building LEGO. I was working myself to exhaustion all year, and then crashing whenever vacation time came around.
Now, I am not saying that I have mastered anything here. I am a teacher, and this is the first summer since I started teaching six year ago that I am not working on lessons for the upcoming year or teaching summer school. The guilt is killing me at times. I swore to myself in January that I would take one day a week to work on my LEGO city. That lasted until about February. I was also still burnt out at the end of the year, even though I tried to ease up a little after being so sick in the fall and winter. But, I am working on it, and you should too!
I am telling myself that there is nothing wrong with taking vacations and down time. If you are sick, your colleagues will actually appreciate you not being there spreading the germs. I am also wrapping my mind around the idea that no, I am not crucial to the functioning of my workplace. I am important (even though I rarely feel that way), but they will survive without me.
A little research will tell you that taking a vacation will actually make you a better worker. Getting your mind off of work for a while increases your productivity and creativity when you get back. It also has major health benefits including muscle relaxation (which will relieve tension headaches), lowering blood pressure, better sleep, and helping fight mental illness.
But, you and I are sitting on a dock by the lake sipping our coffee in the early morning sun. So, we already know this, right?
Until next time,
p.s. Shout out to Part-Time Monster for hosting the Weekend Coffee Share.