I recently made the decision to give up my upcoming spring break because of personal obligations. Without going into too much detail, the "obligations" aren't based on an emergency. But it was "expected" that I would help, and because of that, I will not get a spring vacation. And I can't help feeling just a little bit unhappy about it, especially because I am "expected" to sacrifice the little free time that I do have more often than not.
As a workaholic, I don't typically take vacations. Partly it's because despite the fact that I work multiple jobs, I can't afford to take a vacation because none of those jobs pay very well. Also it's because I like vacations as much as the Lohan family likes being out of the spotlight, or as much as certain celebrities like to wear outfits that don't just happen to "slip" whenever paparazzi are around (cough, cough).
When I do get a break from school, I don't spend the time relaxing. For me a "relaxing" day is getting a lot of things done, because how relaxed can I be when I go to sleep at night and think of all the things I didn't get done? I had this nightmare once where a tour guide was showing me around some weird place I'd never seen before and saying, "And in this life, no one EVER works! Isn't that great?" And I woke up thinking, Oh, NO! Did I just have a dream about what hell is like?
I'm all about multi-tasking. Even when I watch TV, I'm usually ironing my clothes, dusting my furniture, or writing a manifesto that's directed towards my neighbors and titled something like, "How to Be Less Annoying. Tip #1: If you're going to invite your dates over, at least put some music on first (but try not to blast it as you normally do, especially if it's the middle of the night). And also lower your shades. If you refuse to lower your shades, at least remember that it's really not necessary to dance around naked and sing bad love songs at the top of your lungs for the next two hours after your date leaves." (I'm not a peeping tom or one to eavesdrop, but some of my neighbors like to announce to the whole building how active their social lives are. That's why I have to keep my shades down.)
For example, during my last winter break, I spent part of the time visiting family. I spent the rest of the time doing research for my dissertation, cleaning out and reorganizing my apartment, working out at the gym, running errands, etc., etc. I did also take some time to do fun things, like fiction writing, going to the movies, and spending time with an old friend. But the point is that that time was mine, to do with as I liked. And it felt good.
If I did take a "real" vacation, though, I'd want it to be a writer's retreat. Fellow blogger Julie Dao, who writes the blog Silver Lining, recently wrote a post about solo writing retreats. I like the idea of being able to spend the whole day writing, because I've never been able to do that before. Rather than stay in Chicago and write, I'd like to go away somewhere (preferably somewhere that's far, far away from my neighbors) and just write all day, every day. Technically I'd still be working, but writing has always been a different kind of work as far as I'm concerned. For one thing, when I'm writing, I never end up pulling my hair out and saying, "Yes, you really do have to read the book in order to write a paper about it," or "The next time you ask me to write a recommendation letter for you,
please give me more than two hours' notice before the deadline," or "Would you like to sign up for the store credit card that will make a lot of money for the store...er, that will save you a lot of money?"
I think it'd be nice to go somewhere that's near the ocean or a lake, so that I could look out at the water when I write. I'd also like to go someplace that's quiet and peaceful, because then I'd actually be able to sleep through the whole night without waking up a bunch of times to scream, "KEEP IT DOWN, DEVIL'S SPAWN!" out my window.
It would also have to be a place with good coffee shops and restaurants nearby, because what kind of vacation is it if the food isn't good? And of course there would be someplace nice to take walks in, like a park or a beach, so that the long walks will make me feel less guilty about eating that good food.
And I'd want a room with a nice writing desk and space for the books I'll bring along. It would be wonderful if there were bookstores nearby so that I could buy more books; I've always felt happiest in bookstores.
But most of all, it would be nice to have a vacation where for once I'd get to write without thinking about all the other work that I have to do or without anyone else pressuring me to give up my free time (so that they can do what they want to do) and trying to make me feel guilty if I don't want to do it.
Someday, when I have more money (and more free time), I'm going to take that writing retreat. And I'm going to develop more of a backbone so that I can learn to say "no" when it's necessary, so that I won't always cave in to pressure and give up the limited free time that I have. I'm still willing to help others; I'm not completely selfish. But I think I've earned the right to take my own vacation, especially because I really do work hard. And I think I have the right to say no, at least once in a while.
What about you? Have you ever taken a writing retreat before? Other than a writing retreat, what else is your idea of a dream vacation?
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