Lessons Learned on a Summer Vacation

This year, I did something I didn’t think I would ever do. I left a job without exactly having another one lined up. I had an iron in the fire and that was as far as I had gotten in the search for my next adventure. But, it was time for me to go and so I went.

I had an interview the day after I left my job, and a second interview two weeks later. I got the job, the only job I applied for, and the plan was for me to start at the end of the summer, after vacation season.

Sure, I could probably have applied for a bunch of jobs and found something that started sooner, but this was the job that I’d been saying for years was what I wanted to do one day. It seemed silly to apply for jobs I didn’t actually want, just for the sake of applying.

So there I was, on my first summer vacation since I was 14. Every year since then, I’ve either been working full-time, in school full-time, or both. And just about every vacation I’ve taken in the last 10 years involved checking e-mail, participating in meetings, answering questions, you know, doing work when I’m supposed to be doing anything but work.

Suddenly there was no e-mail to check, no one calling me for help, and I had a wide-open calendar.

What was I going to do?

The first week, I stayed in bed kind of late every morning, watched a bit too much TV, and was generally a bum. I figured after 20+ years of doing something all the time, I deserved a bit of doing nothing. Then I got bored. Also, I knew I was going to be working again soon and didn’t want to get too far from a routine befitting a person with a career.

I decided that each day I was going to think of something I say I don’t have time to do, and do it.

– I washed, waxed, and detailed my car, my truck, and my husband’s car. Inside and out. Showroom shine.

– I worked on clicker training my dogs. They’re still a work in progress. We’ve got sit, sometimes stay, and not much else.

– I got back into baking bread and finally tried out my grandmother’s recipe that I’ve only had for like 15 years. She used to say she would rather die than eat store-bought bread. I don’t know if I’d go that far myself, but it’s a seriously good recipe.

– I attempted to learn Spanish. It didn’t go that well.

– I cleaned out and organized all of the closets and junk drawers. Found stuff I didn’t realize we had, and made a huge pile to donate.

– I dug out my camera and started taking real pictures again, mostly of my dogs.

– I re-read my favorite book.

– I roasted a whole chicken. With a compound butter under the skin and a gravy made from the pan juices. (It was really good, so I actually did this a few times.)

– I made tamales on a Wednesday. If you’ve ever made tamales you know this is a weekend project. Unless you’re on vacation, that is.

– And I ran. So many miles. I set a new personal record for most miles run in a month.

Alas, the summer is over, the leaves have changed, and it’s getting colder. I’ve been at the new job for a couple of months now and while the memories of my summer vacation are starting to fade, the lessons never will. The biggest thing I learned is that the stuff I put off because I was too busy, I probably wasn’t too busy for it at all.

I just thought I was.

If you ever have the chance to take a break from the everyday, even for a week, and have a real vacation, seize that opportunity. Put the phone down, refrain from checking e-mail when your spouse is in the shower or the kids are otherwise occupied, and just live. You won’t regret it, and when you get back to work, it will still be there.

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