Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Vacation: The Quick Fix

For as hectic as RollerCon was for me, I still wasn’t prepared to get back to the grind and come to work today, but I did. I was greeted 40-minutes into my workday with a voicemail saying that I needed to attend a 9am meeting. Fine. What I didn’t know was that it was a 9am to 3pm meeting, and I was so not prepared to sit in one spot for that long!

Being away from the norm for a while really highlights how you truly feel about your “normal” life. For instance, I was super excited to see J. I saw him from across the baggage claim, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I just wanted to squeeze him, and I’ve been doing so ever since I got home. Before I left, I was focused on the lawn not having been mowed and the like, but none of that mattered when I saw him after having been away for 5 days.

Another example is today at work. I couldn’t help but think that if the meeting I had been sitting in on was about derby, I would have had more to contribute and I could have been more focused. I like my job – I really do. And I wouldn’t want to do anything else, unless I could make a living doing derby business. I guess my having been thrust full force in the derby world for a week was extremely fulfilling, even if it was hectic and tiring.

I then started thinking about people who never get to go away from their normal lives. People who don’t vacation (staycation not included), who don’t get to go away for work, or who just don’t ever leave their neighborhood or state. I think you get so weighed down by the little annoyances in life, that things get confusing and you never have the chance to step back and assess what you really want. I could be wrong, but I know being away helps clear my head.

I remember hearing about generations of families who have never left West Baltimore. If you aren’t familiar with that part of town, the majority of it is extremely unsafe with tons of drug activity and something like 95% of all murders that take place in Baltimore (which is why the majority of us living here don’t consider the once murder capital of the US unsafe – we never go there). I once heard a man describe West Baltimore as its own country. Sure, it’s in the US, but the people within it live by different rules. They have to in order to survive. And many of these people know nothing else. The man relayed a story about a family who had never left a 6 block radius for 3 generations. Was their perception of the way life had to be warped by being in that environment for so long? I don’t know, but their ideas about what was “good” are certainly radically different from mine, and I only live on the East side.

I read an article on CNN.com several weeks ago talking about the new health threats associated with not taking a vacation. Because gas is so expensive and people cannot afford to go anywhere, they aren’t releasing stress and the number of heart attacks is on the rise. Not taking a vacation could kill you (but, then again, isn’t the heart attack a byproduct of all the fast food you eat because your work schedule is so hectic?). I’m not sure you can really blame heart attacks on not taking vacations, but someone will – heck, they already have.

That’s the thing about us as Americans. We’re in “reactive” mode, instead of “proactive” mode, at all times in our lives. We take vacations to get away, not really to enjoy ourselves or where we’re going. We go to forget the lives we lead 99% of the time. Sure, vacations may give us a glimpse of our true wants because our minds have the chance to clear, but what we really should be doing is living our lives outside of a state of hyperstress on a daily basis. I think we’re pretty much “stressed out” all the time, but when we actually say we’re “stressed out” we’re hyper stressed. That’s why not taking 7 days out of 365 a year can kill a man. That’s why our bodies immune systems are so low that they cannot fight off bacterial infections and viruses that have been around for a long, long time, but that in past generations have been fought off by healthier immune systems. So, we come up with instant-gratification type solutions – quick fixes: vacations and antibiotics three to four times a year.

I need to stay focused on what I really truly want and what’s important to me in the day-to-day. And I resolve to try and find something to lower my day-to-day non-stop stress level too. Really, I want to live my life being proactive, not just reacting to all the other craziness in my environment.

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