As a child, I couldn’t wait for my family’s annual two-week vacation in the Bahamas. As an adult, though, the concept of vacation has become more challenging.
Vacation, by definition, is meant to be a break, a reprieve, a time of rest. But to some of us, the mere mention of this word strikes more fear than the thought of speaking in front of an audience of a thousand people. For me, the thought of going away is great, but actually getting away drives me crazy.
Why? Well, to those of us who are admittedly high strung control freaks, this is actually an opportunity to fail.
Preparing to go away doesn’t only include preparing my family for the time away from home, but also includes preparing my clients for the time away from my business — where I still feel compelled to respond to my clients’ every need as quickly as possible. I feel like I can’t check out, but I know the real truth — I choose not to. It is actually easier for me to stay connected in work mode with a change of scenery than to mentally allow myself to truly relax and unplug. I worry too much about not being there if needed.
It isn’t completely my fault, though. I am a product of my environment. I have taken such ill-timed vacations that have required me to work, that I am conditioned to thinking that something earth shattering might happen on the one day I don’t check e-mail.
During my days in corporate America, time off always seemed to be something for others to enjoy. I had to lay people off during my honeymoon and was answering e-mails from senior executives while I was being induced for labor. But having a BlackBerry did come in handy as a source of light when we were in complete darkness during a category three hurricane in Mexico.
Naturally, my family expects more of my attention than they usually get, but I have inadvertently trained my clients to expect to have access to me, also. To be honest, I don’t think I end up making anyone happy.
Last year I didn’t take a vacation because I was too worried about what I might miss. Now I’m too worried about really missing what really matters in life to not take one.
After all is said and done, I am planning a vacation — a really nice one, because I do think that I deserve it. Or at least my family does.
Michelle Thompson-Dolberry is president and “chief fire starter” at EMDO Enterprises, a Los Angeles-based firm that provides consulting and event management services to small businesses and nonprofits.