21 Sep 2017

Letting Go: Learning how not to Work

I loved the work I did before we left for this trip. I was very lucky and my job wasn’t just something that paid the bills, where I went to work and when I left I left my work at the office (sometimes bringing it with me was required but most of the time it was just bouncing around in my head). I didn’t just think about policy at work, I talked with Nate about it over dinner, and I discussed (argued?) with friends about it over beers. Sometimes that was part of the problem. There is no denying that recent changes to my work environment were harder to digest because of how much I loved the work I did. It meant that I thought about the good and the bad a lot.

When I got to Hawaii, at first it was just like any vacation. I could easily have imagined that when it was over, I would go back to work and my usual day-to-day life. Even still, I dreamed about work. It wasn’t just one dream either. For 3-4 nights of the first week after I left I dreamed about work. It’s now 3 weeks into our trip but it still happens. Some nights I relive different versions of my going-away party (none as good as the one my colleagues actually threw for me) and other nights I missed a deadline for writing a memo that I didn’t know I needed to write or ended up in a meeting about something I knew nothing about. Turns out, even when you quit a job, it lingers. When Nate quit the White House, it was probably 2 months before he stopped hearing imaginary new-message alerts and seeing phantom blackberry notifications out of the corner of his eye. Without my extra devices, and limited connection in general, maybe I can cut that time down a bit?

The other challenge of letting go of work is letting go of having a purpose or something you’re working toward. So far Nate has been able to convince me that I don’t need to start learning something new yet (coding anyone? maybe Spanish?) but the urge is already there. It’s not that we don’t have plenty to do each day. Spending 2-3 weeks in a new country doesn’t leave a lot of unaccounted time and in Cape Town our internet has been limited, which takes a lot of the options I was considering off the table.

Why do I feel such a strong need to learn something beyond learning about the counrty I’m visiting?

On some level, I think it has to do with the fear that this “millenial vacation thing” (what someone actually called it) is not sufficient to justify a year away from the workforce. I’m a pretty motivated person and it seems like it will go over better when I inevitably have to get a job to say I spent a year traveling and teaching myself to code, speak another language, and make excellent Thai food.

Letting go has been difficult. I know people do it and everything turns out just fine but good luck convincing my subconscious of that. I guess I have plenty of time to try though?