Today, I started my longest vacation since I started working – five days.
Ever since I was 15 years old, I have been working and – . Working and going to school full-time. Working full-time and training for the world championships. Working two full-time jobs, and sometimes a part-time job on top of that. Working full-time and running a company full-time.
Every time I had a break from one job, there would be something else – a training camp, finals week, a grant due for a client from my second job.
That all paid off well enough to pay for private schools, swim teams, children’s college, graduate school, international training camps, not to mention a roof over our heads and food on the table.
Like a lot of Americans, I got on that hamster wheel where I was working more and more. It wasn’t because of the old adage of “You can never be too rich or too thin,” but rather, because I was always thinking, “What if I turn this contract down and I don’t get any more offers after this?”
Never mind that I have not gone without work in my entire life.
These days, my children remind me often,
Mom! You don’t need to work. We’re not going to let you sleep in a box behind Gelson’s and eat out of the dumpster. Not gonna happen. You can slow down.– All of my children at one time or another
The last 15 years, I have tried to cut back, with limited success.
Limited success comes from limited effort
This is something I tell my children and students and I think they often miss the implied part:
Limited effort comes from limited motivation
One reason my motivation is more limited than I’d like to face is, after 49 years, I have no idea what I would really do if I wasn’t working, and I think many other people are in the same boat. I don’t paint or knit. I’ve already been on many boards as a member, state officer, national committee chair, president. I have written books, authored scientific articles, taught college courses on a whole range of subjects.
It’s been almost five years since I moved to Chile. While I was there, I started taking Saturdays off. Everyone in Chile takes off the weekend, because that’s the whole point of days off. So, I tried it, spending my Saturdays hiking, exploring Santiago and Concepcion, visiting museums. On Sundays, I got caught up on work with our company in the U.S, where lots of people do work weekends. I also graded papers and wrote lectures for the course I was teaching online.
What would I do if I wasn’t doing this?
If you are Bob Dylan and genuinely enjoy making music , that unanswered question is a reason to keep doing what you’re doing. For too many people, though, it’s just lack of experience at anything else than work-sleep-repeat. I’ve heard people say,
“I could never retire. I need a sense of purpose to get out of bed in the morning.”
What strikes me as odd is that the people saying this usually aren’t saving lives through cardiac surgery or saving the planet by cleaning up the ocean. Nope, they are working as a greeter at Wal-Mart or checking that Form 567a was filled out correctly so that Elmer Fudge can get reimbursed for his trip to the Widget-o-Rama Convention in Sioux Falls.
So, if you’re so smart, what are YOU going to do when you’re not working?
I’m glad you asked me that. So far, I’ve read two books and the Washington Post. (I read very fast. That’s another post.) I walked two miles down to Santa Monica Beach, to the pier and back. I’m dropping the dog off at the kennel in a few minutes and going to meet some friends whose house just won an award from their city for Christmas decorations. (I’ll post pictures on my Instagram later .) I’ve gone through a couple of drawers in my house, tossed some things in the trash and put others in a bag for the Salvation Army.
Tomorrow, I’m baking cookies and going to one daughter’s house for Christmas Eve. The next day, I’m making dinner, having another daughter over to the house and opening Christmas presents.
Somewhere in the next few days, there are some programming solutions I want to try. Wait! Didn’t I say I was on vacation? Vacation doesn’t mean you have to turn your brain off and watch Lost in Space (world’s dumbest TV show before everything on reality TV came along). I’m still interested in programming and statistics. Vacation means I can choose the hours I want and the topics I want to study.
There have already been bets laid in my family on whether or not I can make it five days without doing any work. We shall see.