When we go to school as children, we learn to take the summers off for two months.
When we go to university, we learn to take even longer breaks of four months.
When we go to work our first job, we have no break for one year. After one year we get two weeks. If we stay at that job long enough, we might eventually get up to five weeks off, most of which we will not be able to take.
Why do the breaks stop after entering the ‘real world’ of work?
When I taught English in Japan we received six weeks of vacation for working part-time, 30 hours a week. For two years, I took six weeks of vacation. It felt amazing. I always went back to work rejuvenated.
When I came back from Japan, I pondered for a long time what to do with my life. I ended up choosing librarian and went back to school to get my Master’s degree. While several factors played into this decision, two of them were related to creating a lifestlyle with built-in breaks. Much work is available as contract work, and most librarians are women which meant an opportunity to take maternity leave contracts.
With this in mind I thought I would mix working along with breaks in between contracts, kind of like a self-imposed sabbatical. This time would be used for travel and creative pursuits. This felt to me, like an ideal life.
But, how often do we live our ideal life?
After finishing school I was lucky enough to find a job I loved and spent the next 4.5 years there. The only thing that made me leave was the opportunity to pursue a startup that lasted just six months.
After coming home from Chile, I decided not to look for a job right away mainly because I wasn’t really interested in one. I thought I would pursue another entrepreneurial idea. I thought I would tap into the community to see what was hot, new and exciting and maybe work on that. But none of that happened.
Instead, I am lucky enough to find myself in a period of…I’m not sure what to call it. So far this has lasted nearly four months. At first I worked intensively on new ideas. Then I lost steam and started reading books and talking to people, looking for answers as to what to do next. Then, came the realization that compells me to write this post:
Solitude is needed to be your most creative and productive self.
I’ve started reading books again.
I’ve started writing again.
I’ve done some coding.
I've generated new ideas.
I’ve gotten back into yoga.
I’ve slept well.
I’ve enjoyed time with people important to me.
When you are given the gift of time it’s always interesting to pay attention to what you do with it. For me, I always go back to old loves.
Most importantly, without the mental heaviness of work I was freed to think (and I mean, really think) hard about everything I’ve done and where I want to go next. This is the kind of assessment we all need to do regularly. But it’s impossible to do it unless you are alone.
Taking time to breathe has always been important to me. But I forgot until I ended up on a break. If you are stuck or even(especially) if you are not, take some time to be by yourself for a period of time. Whether it’s just a weekend away or an hour a day, pay close attention to what you do with that time.