In my first salaried job out of college, I waited ten months before I took a vacation day. There might have been a brief probation period upon hiring where I had to work 30-days before a day off or whatnot, but there was certainly no rule telling me I must wait nearly a year to have a day off beyond weekends or federal holidays.
But there I was, 22-years-old, working for a well-known, international nonprofit, and proud of that record. I wanted to do well and to impress the people around me. I assumed one way I could do that was by being endlessly available.
This all came to mind when, recently, I heard a business executive boast about having not taken a vacation in two years. With all due respect, director, that is not the flex you think it is.
Are you proud of yourself for allowing your work to dominate every corner of your life? For watching it seep into evenings and weekends? For expecting the same of the people you manage?
I feel very fortunate to have been able to pursue a field (generally, the nonprofit sector) that I am deeply passionate about. I have worked in various organizations—across cause space and organizational size—and I have been mentored and supported by amazing colleagues, bosses, and, at the end of the day, friends who also care about making positive change in the world.
That said, I don’t expect my colleagues to work for two years without a vacation. I don’t want to work with someone who hasn’t given their mind time to rest. Who hasn’t spent a lazy Tuesday afternoon meandering around their city without a care in the world as to what is happening in their inbox. Who hasn’t stood in the TSA line at the airport giddy with excitement over an unknown adventure. Who hasn’t turned their living room into a Staycation retreat or hasn’t nearly forgotten their work computer sign in after a week away.
You need the time away. Time to breathe deeply in a town that isn’t yours. Time to make a mess in the kitchen in the name of experimentation. Time to rewatch your favorite romantic comedy. Time to visit with out-of-town friends and family. Time to rest. To recharge. To simply be.
There are certainly seasons where I feel like I can’t step away or where I feel almost guilty for disconnecting. It’s especially challenging in a world where so many of us have gone remote and can access our jobs through a couple taps on our phones. But you owe it to yourself to push that voice down and take the time you know you deserve.
As we edge closer to fall and, soon after, the winter holiday season, we urge you to spend some time looking at your calendar. Where can you find intentional time for you? We also encourage you to look at your “time off,” if you are in the fortunate position to have it. See how many days you have that aren’t going to roll over and, at minimum, commit to using those before December 31.
May you find time for joy, laughter, and adventure. And may these upcoming months allow space for radical self prioritization.