Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. ~ Maya Angelou (from the Quoteflections blog)
My then-fifteen-year-old daughter and I took a trip through the Far East back in 1988. One of the places we visited was a section of the Great Wall of China outside Beijing. We climbed the wall, hiked a bit of its length, posed sitting on a Bactrian camel, dickered with the touts selling souvenirs, and generally had a memorable time. (Photo at right will be replaced when I can scan the slide properly.)
But from the top of the Wall, I could look down and see that some of the tour buses still had people in them - people too old, too tired, too disinterested to get off the bus, to interact with this strange, wonderful place even at a tourist level. At the time, I wondered how many of these folks had delayed travel and leisure and adventure until "after retirement." I vowed at that moment to adopt Travis McGee's strategy of taking one's retirement in small increments throughout one's life.
I worry about people, especially educators, who never seem to take a day off. From blogging. From Tweeting. From e-mail. From showing up at work. From worrying about their jobs, their students, and their schools. I am somewhat appalled when 80% of my co-workers when asked about what kind of vacation they are taking this summer reply "none."
Recreation, should always be spelled "re-creation." Getting away gives one perspective. Gives one time to reflect. Gives one time to get to know one's spouse, one's children, and one's self better - for good or for bad.
Re-creation doesn't necessarily mean travelling to a new place. It can be going to a well-loved resort, To a quiet park. It can be a day at the pool. At home alone with a good book. On a walk or a bike ride or a run at lunchtime. Maybe it just means turning off the computer and the phone for a few blissful hours.
We all need to truly leave work now and then - for both our physical and mental health. When we are gone, we give those who remain practice making responsible choices, thus strengthening our organizations. A little distance between ourselves and our challenges brings them into focus.
I've often wondered if professionals stopped putting in unpaid overtime, if unemployment would disappear in the U.S. While we all pride ourselves on our work "ethic," I often wonder if we are treating ourselves ethically? What happened to those promised 30 hour work weeks that automation was supposed to produce?
Perhaps this is all just rationaliazation since I will be taking the last three days of the week off and another week off later in the month to re-create. Maybe. But I do believe in the value for both oneself and those with whom one works to get away now and then.
Try it if you haven't.