This week I took my first real vacation from work to stay on the Isla de Mujeres in Mexico. Okay, maybe it wasn’t completely a vacation… I had my cell phone, and I did some remote working, but this is the first time that I have taken real time off since I started my job after graduation.
I think it hit home for me this week that it is actually, in reality, very difficult to vacation as a twenty-something just starting out in her career. I have graduated and found a job that I love, and helped found this magazine. I can’t seem to untangle my mind from the ludicrous notion that as soon as I turn my back something is going to go wrong.
As a young professional I feel, at times, like I have to prove my worth starting from the bottom again every day. Now, that may not be 100% true, but it’s a feeling that I can’t shake. This is something that has lead me to want to take few days off. I may work remotely, heading home for a few days, or like now when I am in Mexico, but I rarely take a full day off. And I can guarantee you that if I do I will be checking my emails anyway, making sure that there is nothing I need to do. No task that is going undone in my absence.
I could be completely crazy, but I don’t think that I am alone in feeling this. As a generation we are used to being plugged in, and sometimes when we try to unplug it comes in waves of horror. We are so used to having instant email, text, calls, Instagram that when we try to tear ourselves away from them for a few days it sends us reeling. The same goes for working. We are young and proving ourselves to the working world. Laying the foundation for our futures. That means that we feel, and know, that we should be busting our buns to show the best side of ourselves, do our best work, land that piece, impress our many rungs of bosses. Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to prove yourself, but there is something wrong with doing it relentlessly and running yourself ragged.
Vacation days are offered for a reason. Employers know that occasionally we just need to take a break from the work scene. No matter how painful it is to unplug, or how many times we surreptitiously check our emails. We need to feel that we are free to do whatever we desire. Hit that middle of the day yoga class. Go scuba diving in Mexico. Travel home and spend real, quality time with our families. Reunite with friends that have been flung to far corners of the country, and even the world. Yes, these are the years that we lay the foundation for our professional careers, but they are also the years that we are young. The years before families and crushing responsibility. College was time for self exploration and fun, and often it is argued that those times had to be abandoned at the drop of the graduation cap – but that isn’t true. Get out there and take a real vacation. It’s okay that you can’t completely disconnect, but let yourself enjoy your days to yourself, doing whatever it is that you like to do. Relax. Refresh. Reset. You’ll be back to work in no time, and you’ll wish that you had taken advantage of your days off.