Your Mental Health Day Off
Most people work too damn hard. Certainly too hard for what they get paid (I’m looking at you 99%). I cannot understand why anyone would want to extend this work ethic to their time off. Things need to get done around the house, we have no quibbles there. You put in work on nights and weekends related to chores, child rearing and overdue projects, I get it. However, there is another form of time off that is too often misused. I am referring to vacations. There are several ways to abuse your vacation days.
The most egregious is to not take them. This is a very real decision and concern. Please do yourself the favor of avoiding this near criminal error. Paid time off is part of most people's compensation and if you don't take it you are effectively giving your work away for free since the extra time spent at the office, instead of on the beach, would have been paid for anyway. More on this below.
Another way of squandering days off, and the one I wish to focus on now that I have gotten the PSA out-of-the-way, is to mistime your vacation. This mistake partnered with misdirection provides motivation for the themes explored here.
First, people take vacations around the same time. In a large society it would be impossible to be the only person on vacation on any given day but even so there's far too much clustering and not enough imagination. Don't take off when (many many) others do, if you can help it. Second, people take vacations to common areas (Hamptons, Las Vegas, [enter name of cliche destination], etc.). This leaves you with the awkward realization that the people you meant to get away from all ended up at the same resort as you (resort == another error). In direct counterpoint to these two mishaps I'd recommend taking time off at odd times and to odd places. If you really want to surprise “them” (whoever the hell “they” are) don't even bother leaving: save on time, energy, frustration and cost with a staycation.
The joyful prospects of travel vacations have been highly overblown, dare I say even exaggerated. Who in their right mind, given a free day, would decide to spend it packing, traveling, unpacking, checking in, eventually checking out, scurrying to a packed beach in between, only to get sunburned and sand in their butt? You, really? If you have a holiday off from work then at least you're getting paid, which is a nice consolation, because what you're doing amounts to another form of work. Inspired by our boy Ferris Bueller, why not look to a day of hooky as a better model of how to spend your time and energy?
First off, sleep in a bit but not all day. After pampering yourself with some beauty sleep follow it up with a good scrubbing and a fine breakfast. Pick up something of interest you have meant to read, something on paper, and go find a bit of shade outdoors to peruse it. No need to finish the whole thing. In fact, if it simply serves as diversionary material between places today all the better. This break should serve as a mental health day, and using FB as an inspiration, you will have known this day off was coming. Meaning, being a responsible adult who knows how to maximize their irresponsible opportunities you have made plans and reservations ahead of time that will allow you to take advantage of the time off and flight of the local residents, whether away or to work, so as to appreciate your town less obstructed and at your own pace.
The themes, for those not all up on their 80’s movies or perhaps a bit foggy on the plot, are diverse: entertainment, culinary, cultural, recreational, plus a fair amount of both light and introspective conversation with family and/or friends you care about. As opposed to running out of town see instead what's happening with respect to a sports or music event, preferably outdoors. Choose one, or both, and either scalp some tickets (so 80’s) or buy them on the second market (what's the difference again?). The advantage of the summer sporting event is that it usually takes a shorter amount of time than a music festival, though when baseball is involved all bets are off (at least you can grab a nap in that case). If you go the summer music (festival) route you may succeed in staying closer to home but you are likely to wear yourself out as well. I say go for it unless none of the acts move you. In that case, focus on making a day of multiple activities and keep your options open.
Continued adherence to a sense of pampering should underlie the decisions made about what does and does not make the list. Far too often vacations leave us more tired than when we began them. There is the stress of packing, making the plane, dealing with family in confined spaces, and again getting that sand out of your butt while cursing your lobster tan. How many times have you heard, or said the words yourself, "I need a vacation from this vacation"? Exactly, take a moment and really think your options over.
Additionally, and this point cannot be reiterated enough, if you are not flying out to wherever it is you’re headed there is a good chance that when you arrive via car/bus/train the same bozos you were trying to get away from are already there. The bozos are already leaving the city, why follow along?
Despite having a day off you are bound to work up an appetite should you even manage half of the activities hinted at. In fact, as the French say, the food creates the appetite and this next idea brings that premise to the fore. A lot is made of beer in this space (and for good reason, it's delicious and it fosters convivial moments) but I would not hold too tightly to your uppity standards in this case. It is good to expand your horizons a bit. You have been doing it with beer styles now it's time to stretch yourself a little beyond what is just in your glass. Besides, on the short list of things more important than beer is food. Thankfully many of us don't have to make a choice between these two but for now we will focus on the eating.
I strongly suggest (in keeping with the movie’s inspiration) you make this special meal an afternoon affair. Leaving it for the end of the day will almost certainly guarantee it is the last activity. Lunch menus are lighter, quicker and cheaper. Each one of these characteristics is a positive today. Additionally, if you get tired after the meal a nap is always available (seeing a theme?) as an option for reviving yourself and bouncing back. What restaurant or shop to choose? You can look for the most renowned or expensive places in your area, a cuisine you have been meaning to try or have not had in awhile, or a restaurant that is routinely difficult to get a seat at. Of course, if you have convinced a fellow villain to join you on this day of hooky they may have ideas of their own. Take a listen and see if any of them inspire you before dismissing their foolish suggestions.
A good meal is an excellent opportunity to hash over topics of interest to you and your party but don’t allow the end of the meal to be the end of the conversation, instead revive it by changing venues. A light walk through a museum, gallery, garden, park, or just an attractive neighborhood should do the trick and is a great after meal activity to work up a thirst.
We are activating the senses so as to stimulate the mind. Let’s try to get a bit closer to that mind stimulation by using our most powerful perception, vision, in appreciation of the aesthetically pleasing. This is an opportunity to slow things down to the pace of a comfortable stroll and to the volume of a polite conversation, whether at a museum or on the street. While conversation will be appreciated, quiet will also serve our overall objective. The silences in between should further slow things down and bring back our focus. This day was a gift you gave to yourself and the friends who joined you. They have also made an active decision on how to spend their time. Beyond the aesthetic, doing a little contemplation on how you spend your time might be fruitful. Answers may be a long time coming, if at all, but the point is to formulate the questions, your questions.
We too often glom onto answers unreflectively. This is done for a variety and combination of reasons whether out of a need for grounding, a sense of perplexity, a response to exhaustion, or simple acquiescence. Push back a little. Your job is an answer, so is where you live, the friends you keep, what you do on weekends, whether you read or not, how you spend your money and if you save any. Shit, the number 42 is an answer… but to what? These and many other ways in which we go about our lives are answers.* But to what questions and, more importantly, to whose questions? Are you living out, working at, friends with, helping those, in response to questions you would pose, given enough time to think things through? Question and listen. Don’t allow the silence that may confront you make you snatch at an answer simply for the sake of relieving feelings of uncomfortableness. Instead, get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Doo, bow bow…
Every day wraps up and this one will be no different. It is important we make it home safe and ready for the next day without raising any issues. Don't post about your adventures. Today was an escape from many things, the fabricated social network included. If you really want to be stealth, leave the phone at home, along with your credit cards and just use cash. Now we have not only paid homage to the 80’s but taken a small step into living it. No cell, no credit cards, equals incognito, bitches. That approach should have you making it out and back more secure than the principal Rooney race home sequence.
Chick chicka chicka
This was a light take on a more serious topic. Many topics in fact: employment, health, work life balance, freedom, financial mobility, to name just a few. This escape from the office, social media, on-boarded assumptions and social pressures hopefully also opened your mind to other possibilities. Maybe this kind of day off is a pipe dream at the moment. I am sorry to hear it but in that case playing hooky might be more critical than ever. Instead of entertaining all manners of triviality and hedonistic tendencies use the time to investigate other opportunities, interview for a job, get introspective and develop a plan about how to move forward. Some people are more fortunate than others but that does not obviate anyone from deliberating on their life, options, and plans. Simply making a decision can provide an increased sense of control and autonomy, feelings of empowerment, and a bit of contentment. Seek and grab your own happiness. After all, life moves pretty fast…