I've just returned from three weeks holiday, so this post is going to be something of a stream of consciousness. Prepare your expectations accordingly.
This was the longest continuous break I've experienced in almost a year. Sure, I've had days off here and there, a few long weekends and a full week and a bit over Christmas, but nothing long enough to disconnect properly.
In fact, the last time that I had a continuous break like this was back in 2021 after I took a redundancy. A full four weeks.
It felt very different though.
When I was between jobs, I felt free from all of the things that I was worried about at my old job, because they didn't matter anymore, and I was motivated and interested in what might come next.
It was a stressful time as well, because uncertainty never sits well with me, but I remember striking a nice balance between learning and relaxing each day and just generally being energized.
In comparison, normal holidays just remind me that I'd rather not be working at all.
I don't come back energized and refreshed, ready and raring to go.
I come back reluctantly and with trepidation.
To be fair to my job, I don't hate it. I really don't.
I work with fantastic people, on meaningful things and I generally get shit done. I make a difference and as far as I know, people like working with me. Mostly.
So why not look forward to coming back?
I have theories as to why.
The first is that a holiday represents a pattern break, and I'm a pretty habitual person. I feel like habits give me comfort and help to keep me on whatever path I think it's important to be on, so when they break down, I feel lost and sad and all other sorts of things.
When I'm on holidays I know that I don't need to keep to my patterns, so they fall away remarkably quickly.
It's stupid really, because those patterns are the things that help keep me moving forward and manage my happiness, so dropping them just because I'm on holidays is a remarkably silly frame of mind.
But the kicker is that dropping them feels good. At least at first. Like allowing a taut string to slacken and relax for a moment.
But when the break is over, I have to spend a bunch of effort re-establishing those patterns so that I can continue to function.
And that is hard. It's tiring and the very thought of it, the thought I having to go through all of that effort again when I could have just maintained the patterns in the first place is disheartening.
The second theory is that holidays remind me of how nice it is not to have to care about things. To answer only to myself, and to be free to do what I want to do, when I want to do it.
Unfortunately, that generally means that I choose to do very little of import, which mostly takes the form of playing video games and eating more food than I should.
It worries me that when given the choice, I choose laziness, but maybe I'm choosing laziness because of a rubber-band reaction of sorts. Like, I'm stressed at all other times so when I get the chance not to be, I grab it with both hands and make the best of it.
It's very nice to not have to care about things though, to not have the weight of a bunch of different problems that you need to solve bearing down on you. I get that feeling a lot, which comes more from me than it does from my environment, I think.
I doubt people are expecting me to solve all their problems, so I'm probably just making a rod for my own back by internally accepting that sort of burden. I mean, people do expect me to solve some of their problems, that's kind of what being a manager is, but maybe I could be more realistic about what is actually expected of me.
The third and final theory is that holidays create a gap in my experience. The world continues to turn while I am gone, and things continue to happen and that irritates me.
But I need to know about those things, because they are probably important to doing my job. I don't like feeling left behind.
So, when I get back from a holiday, not only do I have to recreate my patterns and start caring about things again, I have to catch up on everything that I missed while I was vacuously staring into a display of some sort.
But there is something else here. The underlying fear that things won't shake out the way that I think they should if I'm not there to make it happen. That things won't progress in the right direction.
That I have to be involved in order to get a good outcome.
And that is a stupid, arrogant thought, and I know I should trust those around me, or failing that, trust myself and my ability to lead and inspire enough such that expectations that I have set are met even without my domineering presence.
So where does that leave me in terms of holidays?
I know I need to take them.
I know I enjoy them when I take them.
I know that they hurt when they are over.
Is this crushing desire to not return to work just an ephemeral feeling, one that will dissipate into the ether as the momentum of normal life returns?
I started writing this blog post at the beginning of the week, when the feeling was fresh and powerful.
I finished writing this blog post at the end of the week, when the feeling was mostly gone.
That itself shows that it's just a matter of pushing forward and getting on with things. Maybe trying some of that emotion management stuff where you acknowledge that you are feeling something, but you don't dwell on it. You let it pass, like watching a river flow by, or traffic drive down a road.
I don't think I'm a very zen sort of person, but sometimes thinking about things like that helps.
And if you just take things one day at a time, it usually turns out okay.