I detest the new year and the ‘new year, new you’ BS that comes with it, but there is something to be said for coming back after taking some time off and how refreshing that feels. I know most people typically take a chunk of vacation time at the end of the year, but for me, it’s pretty much my only vacation time. Because I live so far from home, I keep the majority of my restrictive “10 days off a year” to visit my family at Christmas time (with one or two days off peppered throughout the year when something pops up).
For me growing up, Christmas was always a two-week break. My father, who has never taken a sick day in my twenty-seven years of existence and used to abandon us in foreign countries to go back to work, would even take Christmas off to spend time with us. I guess my only memories of having the whole family together come from Christmas time. So even though I live in New York now, I still prioritize my time to come home to Ireland in December for as long as I possibly can.
That all said, dare I admit that taking time off is actually a real struggle for me and admittedly, I get kind of grumpy and irritated. I write this post, from thousands of feet in the sky on an airplane, where I just spent the last two hours catching up on emails even though today is one of my ten days off this year and it’s 10 pm at night. I can’t help the tinge of guilt I feel when I’m not working. When people ask me why I moved to New York, my most direct answer is “to work.” When people ask me if I’m looking for a relationship/get married/blah, blah blah, my most direct answer is “no, I just want to work.” And it’s not as though I am working five jobs, and sleeping four hours a night. But I am genuinely happiest when things are moving and my brain and thirst for “doing” is quenched. The quickest way to irritate me is to waste time.
A long time ago I read a quote that said “I simply do not distinguish between work and play”, by an American poet, Mary Oliver, and it resonated with me so much. Though I am afraid to admit it for fear of looking like a naive twenty-seven-year-old, I truly feel I will always live to work and not work to live. In my eyes, as long as you always enjoy what you do, you shouldn’t have to distinguish between work and play. You don’t have to work fifteen hours a day, but you should at least enjoy what you do. If you don’t, you should fight for it to be that way. Or just suck it up. You choose.
But I promise you, I do see two sides to this coin. It is unreasonable to think that anyone can “keep going”, as much as I want to believe otherwise. Those motivational videos on YouTube tell you “I was so engaged I didn’t eat for three days.” Now. Come on. That is not particularly healthy, nor does it give you any leverage when it comes to being productive. Trust me, I have gone three days on a minuscule amount of calories and that shit comes back to bite you in the ass tenfold.
Just like anything in life, you need to have a balance. The only thing that encourages me to enjoy downtime guilt-free is that I truly believe that it’s like sleep; the longer you go without it, the less productive you become. I’m at a place where I find joy in work and joy in play, and though it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I’ve managed to merge the two areas of my life.
I have no established hobbies outside of work, I don’t drink and get up at 5 am every day, and yet I am so, so happy. If my biggest worry is making myself switch-off more, I think I am doing more than ok. My priority lies in self-awareness to ensure you know what’s going on with yourself, know what you need and when you need it. Once you understand yourself, you’ll understand everything else so much better.