That word. It’s new to me, as if I was listening to vocabulary from an international language that’s never before been heard.
That word is strange and seems new to the tongue, like tasting a delicious and exotic fruit that leaves a joyful taste in the mouth.
I use this word for the first time in a very long time, far TOO long.
VACATION. This week, I’m on…vacation. Vacation is a word that is so simple, yet very seldom used to refer to myself. I’ve used it for many other co-workers, particularly those whose work I have to cover: “Yes, I’m taking care of that while she is on VACATION.”
WHY? Why has it taken me this long? Why? We all know that a vacation is as necessary as working itself. In my 9-to-5, I am a bit of a workaholic. Actually, it’s more of an “over-workaholic.” There’s so much to do, and there’s not really too many people in my company who can perform the tasks that I perform. In the upside-downside world of media, there are deadlines, gorilla-like competitors and never-ending projects. Plus, not everyone or everything is cooperative enough to see you through to your finish line. There’s very little room for error, so that adds to the meticulous amount of time required to get the job done. As a result, vacation is often put off for a later, more opportune date. And that date never arrives.
But you know what? I’m not alone. Many Americans do not take as much vacation time they should. Some workers don’t take ANY. According to 2016 research from Project Time Off: State of American Vacation (http://www.projecttimeoff.com/news/press-releases/americans-waste-record-setting-658-million-vacation-days), “more than half of American workers (55%) left vacation time unused in 2015; that adds up to 658 MILLION unused vacation days.” Many of these unused vacation days (like mine) do not roll over into the next year, or paid out at the end of the year, or otherwise. They are gone; use them or lose them. Unused days not only hurt the employees, but the economy as well. Project Time Off points out that unused vacations result in billions of dollars forfeited every year. For myself, after this week is over, I will still have a week’s worth of vacation days left to use.
So, economy aside, what are the benefits of taking vacations? The reasons should be obvious, yet they still go ignored. The benefits include, according to ME:
- Reduced Stress. There was a certain level of anxiety that I felt as I got up every morning, all these months, with no break. That created a very dreary feeling that came from having over-disciplined and over-worked nerves and brain cells. Vacations allow a sense of freedom, from having no plans, no meetings, and no schedules. It clears the mind and the spirit, creating a free flow of creativity and joy.
- More Productivity. Whether returning back to the office or working on my side-hustle (blogging), I noticed that reduced stress makes me feel refreshed and anew, refocused on my creative work and goals.
- More Free Time to Reconnect. I’m catching up with friends and family members, thus allowing me to nurture my relationships. Before taking time off, I was always too busy, too tired or too pissy & cranky. We all need the connections with other people to get through life. With time away from the office, I’m able to re-experience some wonderful people, whom I’ve missed.
- Negativity Detox. I breathe. I’m letting go of every negative thought and feeling that’s been building up during all these months of over-work. Without trying to sound “new age,” these negative vibes just ate away at my mind, blocking many chances of any positivity to seep inside. This vacation is allowing me to release and forget all the negativity, and to just allow the positivity to stream easily. I have a mind clear of the clutter and the distractions.
It all boils down to loving yourself enough to take the time to…LOVE YOURSELF. It’s not selfish; it’s actually a necessity. We owe it to ourselves, to our lives, to our relationships, to take the time to appreciate ourselves. Life is far too short and unpredictable to be any other way. We can’t be so busy making a living that we forget to LIVE.