Here we are in mid-October, I’m comfortable saying I’ve mostly adjusted to the diminishing daylight and have started into one of my favorite times of year. Sure, it’s about to be the “holiday season” or whatever, but that’s not really it. Not directly, anyway.
I’ve long made a habit of mostly hoarding vacation time through the first 2/3 of the year. With the arrival of October, though, it’s time to start letting those days spool out. For me, that means the next two and a half months look something like this:
Three-day weekend… Work for two weeks… Five day weekend… Work for a week… Four day weekend… Work for three weeks… and finally the last, glorious Fifteen day weekend capping off the year.
The annual burning off of vacation time is a real thing of beauty. This annual rite of autumn is made easier in my case by not having to burn time during the rest of the year to tend to sick offspring or in accommodating spousal wishes. I sprinkle days through the rest of the year to get a quick breather when necessary, but it’s here in the fall where I really get my head right.
In a few months the new year starts and with it a new round of hoarding time off begins… with the promise of another fall filled with days not spent dwelling under fluorescent lighting. For now, though, I’ll happily celebrate the best ten weeks of the year,
I just cranked the thermostat down to 65 because it’s approximately 7000 degrees outside and I’ve got a heating pad wrapped around my neck because direct heat is the only thing so far that buys me a few minutes every hour of being able to move my head like a normal person.
So that’s how the week off is going in case anyone was curious.
1. Scolding. “Your test results are always oddly good for someone… like you. That won’t last forever.” Doc, look, no one knows better than I do that I’m a walking timebomb. Someday this glorious temple of gluttonous debauchery will fall down and sink into the swamp. I know that. But today, it seems, is not that day. And I don’t intend to spend every day from this day to that inevitable day at an indeterminate time in the future doing things I hate (like jogging around the neighborhood) or eating things that I hate (like kale). Even the healthiest of us eventually drop dead. There’s nothing all the gifted practitioners at Johns Hopkins can do to stave off the end that comes for us all. Better to spend those limited days, I think, doing and eating, things I enjoy.
2. Agreeing with Speaker Pelosi. I never feel entirely well when I find myself agreeing with Speaker Pelosi. Fortunately it’s something that doesn’t happen particularly often. In the case of the House select committee on the insurrection of January 6th, it’s the only investigative vehicle left open to the Speaker in the face of a Republican congressional caucus that would rather hide from or obfuscate the truth than nail down the details of what really happened, who was involved, and what motivated them. Sedition and insurrection are among the most vile offenses against our republic. Making the details surrounding what happened plain is in the vital national interest. If elected Republicans are too afraid of the results of the investigation to call for one, well, that’s probably a decent sign that one is needed without delay.
3. Seven hours. There are seven working hours between me and a nine-day weekend. If that’s not legitimate grounds to be annoyed, I don’t know what is.
I don’t suspect it’s a surprise that along with the rest of the real estate market, sales of vacation homes have been red hot over the last year. I mean with travel severely curtailed and many vacation destinations closed, having a dedicated vacation property feels like it would be a good idea, even if not exactly a good value. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t periodically trolled real estate sites looking at properties from beachfront to high desert during the plague year(s).
I like the overall idea of having a vacation property, but in the details is where the dream starts to break down. I mean I don’t like cleaning the house I have now. I do it regularly, but I begrudge every hour spent on the task. A house hours away that also needs to be cleaned and maintained feels like it would sap a lot of the restful and restorative effects of having it in the first place. Plus, once upon a time I carried three separate mortgages. In the last two years I’ve gotten very comfortable having worked that down to just having one note to service. Doubling the number of monthly mortgage payments along with all the other ancillary bills like electricity and internet, also feels distinctly non-relaxing.
Despite occasionally looking, I’ve more or less decided against the idea of vacation property for the foreseeable future. I could say it’s a money thing and leave it at that. Everyone would likely understand that logic, but that’s not the biggest hurdle in my mind. It’s the sheer painful logistics of quick trips that makes the idea a likely hard pass for me. There’s finding trusted agents to tend a cat and tortoise while I’m away. Then there’s loading the dogs and their half-truckload of basic maintenance equipment, getting them settled into a different place, and shortly thereafter reloading everything to drive back home. I don’t travel light and consequently, neither do the dogs. Maybe that’s some kind of moral failing, but it’s reality.
As much as I’d like to blow out of work on a random Friday afternoon and lay my head down somewhere in proximity to beaches or mountains, organizing all the moving parts sounds like perfect agony – and feels like something that would suck up every ounce of joy I managed to find in having a second establishment. It’s something to consider, perhaps, when I’ve finished whoring out my brain for 40 hours of each week and there are big buckets of free time, but here and now, the time just isn’t right.
The good news, I suppose, if you happened to miss reading my daily rantings, is that I’m back. The bad news, if you’re me, of course, is also that I’m back.
I’m not upset at all to be back to blogging. It’s the fact that my having anything to say is squarely driven by being back to work after nine days off that’s the problem.
As it turns out, when I’m not spending a large portion of each day screwing around with work, I’m mostly content to putter around the house, knock off an errand or two every day, and otherwise keep myself to myself. I believe I’d be happy to keep that schedule up indefinitely. There isn’t enough time in a standard weekend to really grasp how much better those days are, but when you stack eight or nine of them in a row, the truth outs.
If all goes according to plan, I’ve got just under 14 years left in harness. I’ve occasionally wondered if the blog will survive that transition. I use to assume it would go on as long as I did. Maybe I’ll catch a second wind, but it feels just now like the whole thing could easily find it’s end precisely when the work stops. It turns out the angst and bitching is dramatically reduced by the simple expedient of doing what I want and on my own schedule rather than tinkering about with email and spreadsheets all day. I’m not sure I’ll have all that much to say when I don’t have that to fall back on.
I’d imagine that will be a good problem to have… and I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
I don’t think there’s a single week since I started blogging that I went silent for an entire seven day stretch. I’m not saying that’s going to happen this week, but I will say that I won’t be putting thumbs to keyboard unless I get some really solid motivation over the next few days.
It’s the first time since December I’ve had an entire week off and and so far I’m enjoying not having anything, including blog posts, scheduled.
If you’re desperate for reading material, feel free to dip into the archive. It runs all the way back to summer 2006 and you’re bound to find something to tickle your fancy buried in there somewhere.
1. Lip reading. Until everyone started wearing masks, I had no idea how much lip reading I do. Short conversations are ok – checking out with groceries or picking up a carryout order – but anything longer, and certainly conversations that involve any level of detail, are just harder when I can’t see someone’s mouth moving. I find myself asking for repeats way more often than would seem to be necessary… and yet here we are. I suppose it’s good practice for when the years of loud radio playing and Jeep noise catch up to me in earnest.
2. CNN. God love them, CNN seems to take a special delight in painting surging home prices as the worst thing ever. Sorry. What? I’m supposed to be upset that I’m building fantastic amounts of equity while simultaneously having a place to live? If nothing else, home ownership through this moment is an excellent hedge against the creeping inflation that CNN also likes to wring their hands over. Yep, it’s hard to be a buyer right now. In other markets at other times, it was hard to be a seller. Trying to pretend the real estate market can or should be static is a bad take for an alleged source of financial news.
3. Waiting. I’m just about a week shy of kicking off Summer Vacation Part I. It’s not decamping for the islands for a week or anything, but it is the first stretch of uninterrupted days off I’ll have had since the new year started. Five months into 2021 and it’s safe to say I’m ready for the break… beyond ready. Eager is probably a better description. Perhaps you could even say I’m giddy with anticipation of 11 days without email, Teams, ringing phones, door buzzers, meetings, or network problems. That’s the issue, really. Slogging through another week when my head is desperately fleeing into vacation mode is going to be exhausting.
I took a bit of time this morning to engage in one of my favorite work activities – gazing at the calendar for the next 11 months and starting to plug days I know I want to take leave into Outlook. It’s a delicate balancing act between maximizing where vacation days adjoin various federal holidays and holding enough time in reserve to scatter around the rest of the year on days when I just don’t have the mental energy for bureaucrating.
It’s probably more art than science, but it’s one of the more personally vital things I do every year. I’ve long known myself well enough to understand I do better when I have well-marked targets. I can plow through almost any governmental foolishness when I know there’s a long (or very long) weekend somewhere out on the horizon at a date certain. I do better when I’m working towards something – and there’s not one thing in Uncle Sam’s gift that I value more than time off. Cash awards get taxed to hell and back, medals gather dust in a drawer, and certificates won’t even get you a cup of coffee… but time off, time not spent updating spreadsheets or sitting though meetings that could be emails, that’s the good stuff.
Like 2020 before it, we’re still in the belly of a plague year with 2021. Days off in the back half of the year, after we’ve all been shot, and are presumably back in cubicle hell, will be more valuable than days off here on the front end when I’m still mainly at home. My plan of attack is weighted heavily in favor of days in June and onwards, with a balance of seven days in reserve to take “just because.”
No plan survives first contact with the enemy. Some of these dates will slide about a little. It’s a mark on the wall, though – something to work towards beyond hours of mashing at the keyboard on behalf of our wealthy uncle and that’s exactly the kind of motivation I need.
We’re back in that part of a year where hoarding vacation days is a thing. The next long weekend milepost is Washington’s Birthday. Then it’s the long slog through to Memorial Day before holidays start appearing regularly on the calendar again.
These are the days when I’m least likely to burn off annual leave. That’s doubly true as we prepare to enter Plague Year II. With the promise of a vaccine coming over the horizon, business as usual, and filling cubicles won’t be far behind. Vacation days then will be far more valuable than any vacation day taken while we’re still living under plague protocols and working mostly from home.
If it sounds like I’m more surly than usual in the next few weeks, it’s mostly because I am. Without even the hint of a week’s long weekend on the horizon for the foreseeable future, it’s fair to say I’m in a mood.
Ah, so it’s New Year’s Day. There is a temptation for it to feel somewhat celebratory, but it’s got a darker undercurrent. The arrival of the new year means that this great ultra-long weekend has been whittled down now to no more than the length of a normal weekend. Just two days. Sigh.
I’m not ready for this. Even constrained by the plague from doing those things I’d normally have spent the last two weeks doing, it was time much better spent than any normal week (even a week in a plague year) could offer. I’m in no way prepared to my time to stop being entirely my own. Knowing that moment is near has already launched a cloud over this new
People make an effort this time of year talking about turning over a new leaf or having a better attitude going forward. Me? Yeah. That’s not going to happen. It’s a new year, but I’ll be trundling through it as aggrieved and surly as ever. The things that annoyed me a month ago are sure to keep annoying me well into the future.
From one year to the next, at least you can rely on my fundamental consistency… So I’ve got that going for me in 2021, which is nice.