Sunday, April 18, 2010

Learning to "vacate" on vacation

One of the things I love about being a teacher is "not teaching", aka vacations!

I spent several decades working 49 to 50 weeks a year, with 8 to 10 extra holidays thrown in. Mostly I worked 8 to 5 type jobs with weekends off. But what we did not have were things like Christmas Vacation, Spring Break, and Summer Vacation.

We were lucky if we got the day after Thanksgiving off, let alone a week around Christmas. In my work unit, those days were doled out on a rotating basis. Each industry is different, as is each country, when it comes to how much vacation one gets.

But when it's vacation time, I was often surprised how long it would take me to "vacate", or leave work behind. It was not unusual for me to take nearly two days to stop thinking about work. It was not unusual for me to start thinking about work again a day or two prior to my return to work.

I wasn't very good at vacating.

I'm better now. Tomorrow I return to work after a week off: Easter vacation came late in our school district, but it came.

Nine months or so prior to this week I reserved a one-bedroom condo/timeshare in Solana Beach, just north of San Diego. That's where I've been. Ahhh...

We left last Saturday about 1 PM for the two hour drive south. Just past the first half hour mark... I was relaxed. I had vacated! (Wow!)

The last month or so has been very busy at work. The school day is generally jam packed. It's loaded with social interactions: teacher-to-students, teacher-to-families, teacher-to-teachers. It's also loaded with meetings, deadlines, reports, and unforseen challenges. The unforseen challenges of the last month left me with little time to enjoy looking forward to vacation. I was swimming hard just to stay afloat. And I did. Barely.

On Thursday night, after a 10 or 12 hour day, I looked at what "needed" to be done before Friday at 3 PM and I decided, "Hmmm... I guess failure is an option."

By end of day Friday I had accomplished the majority of what "needed" to be done. The rest... did. not. get. done. (And no one died.)

Part of vacating has to do with giving myself permission to do less. I recently wrote about being Mr. Good Enough. Interestingly, my daughter recently wrote along a similar vein as a young mom/homemaker/wife.

Leaving the stress behind is a daily skill, not just a vacation-time skill.

I return to work tomorrow. I had one return-to-work bad dream last night. (Not bad.)

During the week I spent some time thinking about the challenges, issues, and priorities of my work. That's normal. That's part of what vacation is too: gaining perspective over the day-to-day routines and recalibrating.

After work on Friday, we went out to dinner. The next day, I washed cars, mowed the lawns, got down suitcases, dropped off the dog, loaded up the car, and headed south.

We had a relaxing week, just the wife and I. We hiked some lagoon trails, visited a museum, shopped at Fresh and Easy for groceries, played gin and cribbage, watched some TV, and talked. We vacated, just about 120 miles away from home.

We got back home yesterday: said, "hello" to the cats, picked up the dog, emptied the car, enjoyed DSL speed, my own shower, and generally just being home.

One of the nice things about a good vacation, is how nice home seems when you get back.

It's good to be home, and it's nice to share a post with my blogging friends. ;-)


  1. The pastorate has traditionally made vacating difficult. 80 years ago a divinity student would be advised by his seminary professors to take a month off (usually August) and use that time for planning the sermons for the coming year.
    A lot of us (like me) still live next door to our churches (my office is in the manse/parsonage). My seminary professors reminded us that we would have business owners in our congregations who would work 60 hour weeks, and so we shouldn't be jealous of our time time. I tell people I have Fridays and Sundays off, and I tell them that if I am unable to take Friday off, they can depend on my cheating and taking time off at the next possible opportunity, but I don't always do that. I am also tempted to regard my yard work as ministry since it makes the church next door look better.

  2. Don, I think it's wonderful how much fun you and your wife have on vacation. You two truly make a great partnership apparently. All the pictures are great.

  3. Don, you sure know how to take advantage of vacation time. You two are always off to somewhere! Which is great. Everyone who can, should.

    I've requested off for the Thursday and Friday before Memorial Day to get a nice five-day respite, but I'm thinking about not using those personal days now. Because, honestly, I have no idea what I would do with the down time. Instead of sitting around on my duff, I should probably just work and try to get some overtime.

  4. @Dennis: Yours is indeed a job with unique challenges, including time off.

    @September: Thanks. Leslie and I do have fun. I'm so grateful for her companionship along life's journey.

    @Saphron: Maybe you should just save that time and money towards your dream road-trip! (Or not.)