I recently did something I haven’t done since my daughter was a year old. I took a week of vacation. Actually with Memorial Day and an extra day on the exit end, it was a nine-day vacation.
Looking at that in print makes it hard even for me to believe. Most especially, because I give our editor a hard time about working too much ... Often. The truth is she does work more than any of us, but even she takes a week off.
I’m the one who has the tendency to stretch my vacation days. I might add a day to a long weekend, take a day or two here or there during a school break and offset it with weekend work, but not take a stretch of days all at once. I also work quite a bit from home, so office burn out manages to stay at bay ... or does it?
Honestly I hadn’t realized the extent of either until I prepared my work space for vacation. Email auto reply would need to be set. Unlike other ‘vacations’ I wouldn’t be checking email while away. I was truly going to unplug and disconnect from all things work. I also didn’t kill myself trying to write two issues full of content before signing off on my computer, another first. Although thanks to the beauty of our busy school district, it seems my work still managed to fill an issue in my absence.
It wasn’t until my final conversation with our editor that we both realized it had been eight years since I left for this long. That’s a long time, too long.
The beauty of course lies in loving what you do and the people you do it with. In this case I love my job and I love being a mom, so juggling the two and making the most of the days seems to work fine. Also as a single mom, I’m careful to hoard my vacation days a bit. Kids get sick, have field trips and summer break. Like a squirrel hoarding nuts I hold tight to those days I may need for such things.
Thankfully my kids requested a vacation which I felt deserved proper time. As I write this I realize the location and details are secondary to what really mattered. The ‘unplug’ was the beauty of our family getaway. As a family we made a commitment to do just that. We even left our watches at home. During our nine day hiatus from the everyday hustle and bustle I would peruse social media briefly early in the morning or after putting the kids to bed. E-mail was out, as was texting, video games and any type of screen time.
We listened to music, read books and talked … a lot. My son navigated a lot of our destinations via a map; yes, an old school traditional fold open map. Sure, we had google maps and I did use it as a back-up of sorts, but there was something fun and magical about having my 11-year-old tell me which highway or street name was up next.
Midway through this vacation a friend posted a quote to Instagram which hit me in a way which went along perfectly with what I was rediscovering on this vacation.
“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” - Catherine M. Wallace
Kids are pretty cool and unique human beings. The beauty of what I do for work is that I get to rediscover that on a regular basis via interviewing some amazing kids. Unfortunately some days I’m tired and talked and/or listened out by the time my duo gets my ear. That’s what this vacation taught me. That’s the true priceless lesson I gained from our vacation of a lifetime.
I did not come back with big, beautiful artifacts. I came home with two of the most amazing and interesting students I have yet to ‘formally’ write about for this newspaper. Their stories will always be the ones I treasure the most. Their thoughts bring me the most joy and wonderment and yes, their company is worth burning the vacation days to get ‘reconnected.’
Until those next stretch of days, which take us on adventure I’m going to listen just a little better and as a family we will ‘unplug’ just a bit more. Happy summer break!
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.