I don’t have kids. Or a spouse. Or even a pet that’s here with me right now. But, I still take time off. The holidays were an excellent excuse to follow a slightly modified compass and take it easy for a few days. Not my rear-end, that’s always well rested, but my brain. And my mind and spirit. It takes an emotional beating during the semesters. The onslaught of emails, the demands from others, the demands I put on myself, the pressure, the endless requests from people and places who think they’re the only person on the planet who need something. It’s not like my dog who I can give a command to and she listens, these humans–they’re something else!
So, I took a week off, ok, about 9 days if we’re really slicing here. I scheduled them. I relished in them. I failed to even turn on my own computer for a few days. Don’t worry, I still have my iPhone for the withdrawal symptoms. I read a piece in the Chronicle about taking time off and while this woman’s situation was much more dire, it got me thinking about taking time and how precious it has become. I’ve harped on technology use time and time again, but it’s not invading the worst situations in our lives, making it more and more difficult to just ‘be’ sometimes. I loathe it for these reasons but also rely on my own good judgement and sometimes others to gently nudge (or tell me flat out) to knock it off. This statement hit home:
“This is the way we live now: We can work from almost anywhere, at anytime. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we should.”
No matter the situation, where you work, what you do, or how you do it, check in with your employer about the time off piece. I’m not saying you should use every hour you get the moment you get it, but it can’t hurt to be aware. I know that at my university there are weeks allotted for maternity or medical. There is an emergency medical act for things that spring up. There is also time off granted for other reasons as well. The policy is negotiable to a point with the department and as long as everyone can agree, the university will even let employees work remotely for up to six months, depending on the case. Pretty generous as long as all parties are at the table being accountable.
Taking time off is NOT a sign of weakness or inability to do a job. It’s a sign that you need it. By taking some time, it will give you the energy to take care of an infant, a loved one, recover from surgery, take care of your mental health, or a host of other reasons. Time off doesn’t have to be three months long. It can be a day, an afternoon where you need to steal away, or a long weekend. However you choose.
As I sit and write this post, I’ve been back to work for a week now and my brain is screaming (go chill out) at me. Luckily, I worked hard this week, accomplished the majority of what I’d set for myself, and will do it again next week with a reward at the end: a long weekend to go visit a good friend and colleague from my grad program. I don’t need six months right now, but I will gift myself three days to do some catching up in a more southern location on the map in the sunshine.
Instead of ‘should-ing’ all over ourselves over taking some vacation time, just take it. Don’t feel bad if it’s warranted. As a young faculty it will become more and more necessary to take that time when we can. The work will always be there and finding the balance will come naturally. That’s what they tell me anyway!