Four fabulous days in Berlin followed by four different but equally excellent days in Tyrol did wonders for my state of mind. In that whole time, there were no aches or pains that were not self-inflicted (for instance, by bowling for 2 hours with no warm-up, or contributing to the emptying of bottles of assorted types of alcohol). There were 3 hours between leaving work 10 days ago and heading off to the airport. There were four hours between returning home from Tyrol and going to bed with the alarm set for 6 am. Between those 3 hours and those four hours, work crossed my mind . . . never. Obligations haunted me . . . never. Thanks to incredibly gracious hosts, I never had to cook. Or drive. Or do laundry. There were no “To Do” lists.
And today the alarm rang at 6 am. I got up and went to work very ill-prepared, hoping that sudden inspiration born of necessity, 30 years or teaching experience, or some subconscious lesson planning would get me through the school day while in body and (conscious) mind, I was actually still on vacation.
It all went okay. I was saved by the fact that all my students were still mentally on vacation, too. My colleagues as well. We were all improvising today.
Nevertheless, I came home tonight determined to get back into work mode. Not because of today, but because of several conversations I coincidentally had over the past ten days with widely diverse people on the topic of retirement.
Some people handle it well, but many more are completely lost without the structure and status that work provides to daily life. How does it feel to suddenly wake up in the morning and have nowhere to go and nothing you have to do? Great (!) when you are on vacation, but what is it like as a permanent condition? No matter who I talked to, they all agreed on one thing – once retirement (or unemployment) begins, there are no more vacations.
These discussions reminded me of many debates my business students had on the subject of joblessness. The majority opinion was often negative towards unemployment benefits. “Why should I pay for (or my tax dollars go to) someone who is too lazy to work?” many students asked. I especially remember one impassioned student countering these arguments. “Have you ever experienced what it is like to not have a job?” she asked. “To apply over and over again to 30, 40, or 50 companies and always be turned away? To be desperate for any shit position? To feel like a total reject?”
I am not convinced that she reached her privileged classmates, but she sure made an impression on me. The ONLY thing she wanted in that time of her life was a job. She would never make the mistake of equating “not working” with “vacation”.
There is no vacation without work.
I love vacations. Especially this last one. The idea of no more vacations frightens me.
It’s time to get back to work.