It’s the last day of my epic post-MBA vacation. Tomorrow I return to the world of commuting, endless meetings, and regular paychecks. Right now I’m sad to see it end, but my leisure time and I haven’t always been on such comfortable terms.
Right after graduation, I was thrilled to finally have nothing to do. No homework, no meetings, no sitting in rush hour traffic for 2-3 hours a day. Did I mention no homework? This was the honeymoon stage. I slept in too late, ate luxuriously, and watched lots of bad TV. I rolled around in my vacation freedom like a dog in something particularly smelly. That’s kind of a gross metaphor, but you get the idea.
Then reality set in. There seemed to be way too many hours in the day and I didn’t know how to fill them. After my morning workout, breakfast, shower, and an hour or so of reading and/or surfing the web, the day stretched before me like an endless desert. I wanted to accomplish things. I wanted to be able to look back on my time off and think, “Ah yes, that was the month I learned how to code, finished writing my novel, and started a profitable Etsy business.” But the days slipped by and I was no closer to accomplishing anything of note. I started to feel guilty for doing so little.
At some point it occurred to me that this was crazy. I was on vacation. People work all year to get just a taste of the leisure I was then enjoying. So why wasn’t I enjoying myself?
The answer was shocking. I realized I had forgotten how to be idle. After two years of nearly endless b-school obligations, I still felt like I had to be “doing something” at all times. Not only that, but I believed that “doing something” had to be related to my professional life. A classic overachiever, I was beating myself up for spending too much time relaxing and not enough time working.
And now here I am, returning to the working world with nothing much to say about my vacation. I didn’t accomplish anything, per se. Or maybe I did. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Have you ever had trouble relaxing on vacation? How did you convince yourself that it was OK to be idle?