Use it or Lose it.

I think we all have friends that say things like, “Oh, I had five weeks of vacation last year, but never used half of them.” or “I’ll have to take the whole month of December off to burn through my vacation.” or “I always end up with days left over, I can never seem to use them all.”

You’ve just read three sentences that will never cross these lips.

Partly because I don’t get five weeks of vacation a week (but pipedreams are real) and partly because I am a firm believer in taking a break.  I mean, I often take breaks DURING the actual workday just to make sure I never round the corner to hair pulling stress levels.  This doesn’t always work.

I do think it is confusing sometimes – trying to find that line that separates your work life from your home life.  Although, as I continue towards my mid-life crisis, I’m finding it much easier to keep the two away from each other.

And I do understand that some people like to be defined by what they do for a living.  That’s not me – I like to be defined by what I do WHEN I’m living.

Now, I’m no Dr. Phil.  But I’m guessing that time off is important to your brain.  Whether it is to get re-motivated, re-energized, re-focused or, most importantly, re-laxed.  I mean, we all know how they roll across the Atlantic….what with their six week vacation plans and mid-day siestas.

People laugh when I tell them I still take Spring Break.  I’d love to say I’ve taken one every year since college – but I haven’t.  For a decade or so I worked just like most adults – came off the Christmas Holidays, counted down the days until President’s Day and then aimed my sights on summer vacation.

But then I switched jobs one March and ended up with a week of nothing-to-do between leaving the old one and starting the new one. 

Here’s a sign that you might need to take some more frequent time off – when the idea of time off is daunting because you have no idea HOW you will spend it or WHAT will fill up all the hours of nothingness.  So, that March, I had my first Spring Break in years – and it was fan-relaxing-tastic.

Now, I haven’t been able to celebrate Spring Break every year (okay, full disclosure, there have been a few very excellent years where I went on mega-vacations for which I had to hoard my days off…worth it).  But when I have an open year (as in…not much planned…) I go for it.

This year, I’m heading out to Burbank to visit a friend of a friend who I have now forced to be my friend.  Tickets are booked.  And my anal side has started setting aside outfits in my head.  No spreadsheets just yet – should be up and running by mid-March, though.

I’ve also become a firm believer in stay-cations.  While I’ll always be biased towards actually going somewhere – there is something very nice about waking up and realizing the biggest thing on your schedule is the move down to the couch.

Actually, I try to do this once a week.  Unsuccessfully.  But I always go into Sunday reminding myself that it’s supposed to be a day of rest.  A for Effort.  F for Fail.

For fun I did a search in Google under “Why Vacations are Good for You.”  Turns out there are about a gazillion articles supporting the idea.  And if it’s on the net, well, you know it has to be true.

Some of the reasons I dug up:
Vacations Promote Creativity (True.  Especially if you go with others – it’s always tricky to ensure everyone’s happiness)
Vacations Stave Off Burnout (Definitely.  Except when you get back and have 900 emails from people who failed to read your ‘out of office’)
Vacations Can Keep Us Healthy (Well…if that’s the case, you might not be doing it right…)
Vacations Promote Overall Wellbeing (Yes. There’s nothing more confidence-building than coming back loaded with crazy trip stories)
Vacations Can Strengthen Bonds (Clearly this person has never traveled with a gaggle of girls.  Equals cat fights)
Vacations Can Help With Your Job Performance (I like to think it doesn’t help my job performance to have me out of the office.  I like to think when I’m out, the place is crumbling to the ground)
Vacations Relieve Stress in Lasting Ways (Again, right after you get through the 900 emails, things seem less stressful)

Some people even take vacation a step further and go on their own.  No one to report to, no schedule to keep.  That’s actually a little extreme for me. 
I have no problem making friends with strangers, but still – I think it’s way better to have someone to share the stories with.  Or at least help vote on which stories will be made public.
My parents have actually taken their vacation level up several notches with a motorhome.  They are on the road so much that their regular/vacation days have actually flip-flopped.  Vacations are now spent at their own house doing laundry, tracking down the cat and re-stocking the RV.  It seems to work – they haven’t aged a bit in years. 
I guess the bad news for those non-vacationing weirdos is that at the end of the year, they are going to realize that there are no awards for perfect attendance. The good news is, I’ll have plenty of memories to share with them while they lick their “I work too much” wounds.

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