Woke up this morning at 6am ready to go. Bags packed, guitar restrung, out of office reply written, online check-in complete…
I am fortunate to travel for my work – I go to conferences and meetings, trainings and events. Every once and a while though, when I print out that lovely boarding pass, I do it 105% for me only. When the baggage is stowed, and seats are in their upright and locked positions, and the landing gear hits pavement in a new place, I am actually and truly on vacation.
As I write this I am sitting in the Portland airport waiting for my plane. I am splurging and getting a foot massage in a few minutes. The spa is dimly lit, and I have a complimentary glass of iced peppermint tea. I can see my polished toes peeking out from behind the top of my laptop. I am wearing a sundress – something I can’t wear to work. I feel relaxed. 9-day weekend, here I come.
But of course it is not that simple. I already know that I will have to check my email. I will have to connect with that colleague who needs me to book a room for the event we are putting on. I will have to log that new student employee into our timeclock system. I will need to call Wednesday night to see how the food pantry went. I will, I will, I will…and if I am not careful it will pile up until I am putting in what amounts to hours when I should be sitting in a hot tub, doing yoga, drinking wine. You know when you sign on for the life of a Student Affairs professional that you will work odd hours, lots of hours, just…well…hours.
I worked as a field guide for a wilderness therapy program before I arrived at Oregon State. When you work in the field you are ON 24-7 for the whole time you are out there. Student needs to use the faciliTREES at 2am? Yep – I am up and making sure they get back to camp in the dark. Lunch might not be until 5 because a kid ran away. I often found myself shivering by a fire at midnight, the kids FINALLY in bed, heating cocoa as the snow accumulates on my shoulders. It’s tough, but one thing I will say for it – when I was not at work, I was not working.
Why is it so hard to unplug? I am sure there are some of you who are thinking as you read this, “duh…I can do it, so can you,” and others who are thinking, “you will only do some email on your time away – lucky!” I think one thing that really contributes to it all for me is being in a world where I can connect all. the. time. My phone streams #SAlife to me second by second, and it is just all too easy for me to go with that flow. Not to mention that my friends are all #SApro, and so my personal life is dotted with reminders of the life. I was out with a friend who was skydiving on the weekend for her birthday. JUST before she hopped on the plane, she got a phone call for work. Another friend and I quickly stepped in to mitigate the situation so she could make the jump.
…and, I will say with pride that I am completing this blog post AFTER my vacation.
So yea, I did take the better part of one morning to take care of the most important bits – and when I think about it rationally, I am unsure how important they really are. I wonder what part of the “I must work, no matter what,” is ego. I had chat with a colleague yesterday about potentially going to school for a doctorate part time (I am leaning toward full-time), and wanted to hear about her experience. She worked 4 10’s and then went to school on Fridays. “I’m not sure I can do that…,” I mused. “Yes you can,” she said, “you have to remember that the work is not about you. If it has to get done, it will whether you are there or not.” It was a good point. I wonder what it would look like for us to truly unplug and see what happened. I imagine that the world would not come tumbling down. Yes, when I got back there were lots of things that were held for me by my students to take care of. There were also decisions made that I would have preferred to be run by me before they were made. In the end though all was well, and if there were issues, there was a strong team of colleagues who could have stepped in to help out.
Maybe next time I go on vacation I will reclaim my morning and go to the pool.