Like many working professionals, I used to feel guilty taking vacation. It is important for me to work hard, fulfill my obligations and not burden my colleagues. This mindset followed me for a very long time. When I first started my career, I would only take a few days off during the winter holidays and that was it for the year. Many of my colleagues would take advantage of the winter break to travel abroad or simply take the time off to spend with family. For whatever reason, I always felt that my absence would dismantle all of my hard work or that I would be perceived as a slacker.
You are probably thinking; what does she do for a living that she feels this way? Is she a clinician? Are life and death a part of her job? Nope – I am a career coach and manage a career office at a university and have been doing it for over a decade. One of the perks of my organization is that we get over 25 vacation days; and yes, I have racked up to 40 days! At first, I would probably take about 6 of those days in a year. I wouldn’t necessarily label myself as a workaholic but I do value working hard and being present. That also means my levels of stress go up and I get burnt out quite quickly. I know it sounds silly, but I know I am not alone in these thoughts. For many people, they may actually work for bosses that add to the guilt and discourage taking time off. However, I have been very fortunate to work for supervisors that also value vacation and value me as an employee. So nothing was really stopping me; just my own stringent expectations.
In my previous position at the university, I noticed my colleagues taking weeks off and really benefiting from the vacation perks. They would return to the office and things were back to normal – their world didn’t collide. This observation was a turning point for me. One year I decided that I would use vacation time to take off 2 full weeks in December. We didn’t have any travel plans – it was a staycation. After a week in, I thought about the school year, projects I wanted to initiate and felt a surge of energy – I couldn’t wait to get back to work. This was a new feeling. Prior to that, I would take2-3 days off and tack it to a weekend to get a nice “long” vacation. But I dreaded going back to work. That’s because it wasn’t a real vacation.
My new vacation mindset taught me something valuable; in order to re charge, be more effective in my role, and actually enjoy my career, taking a break is essential. For the past few years, I have embraced this new outlook and have given myself permission to schedule time off and not feel guilty. I work in an environment where I serve students year round, and there is really “no good time” to take time off. But I have found lower peak times during the year that I know I can make an escape.
It has taken me a long time in my career to allow myself to embrace the things that I value. It is important for me to spend time with family and take a pause to enjoy the things this world has to offer. Now, I make it a point to take a short break at least once during the semester and a longer vacation right before the beginning of summer. We have enjoyed weekends in Wisconsin and Michigan to connect with nature, visits to other parts of the United States as well as international vacations to explore food and culture. Something we love to do!
I admit I still struggle disconnecting from my work life and still working on not checking email on my time off. I am getting ready for my next vacation and I have set an intention to not check work email. I will blog about my journey and enjoy each day at a time.
Are you taking some time off? A vacation or staycation? Have you felt guilty about taking time off?