Yesterday was the Friday before winter break. I noticed people using a typical greeting I hear each year around this time: “One day until break,” or “Let’s make it through until we start vacation.”
I used to think that way: that I needed to drag myself through work until I finally “accomplished” a break.
However, I’ve learned that if I am only focused on vacation and dragging through work, then my vacation will be a drag. Nothing will be good enough: I’ll bring my complaints into vacation and will never feel fully satisfied, or fully rested. I realized also that I have invested in being passionate about whatever I’m doing.*
I saw yesterday how I could greet people differently: “Enjoy your last day of work!” “Have fun at work these last two days!” “The more you really go for it at work, the more you’ll enjoy vacation. If you drag yourself through the last two days and just focus on vacation, you’ll bring the same drag to your vacation.”
“It’s true!” one woman replied to me. “I’ve had vacations where I just stressed out about other things.”
I understand why people think they are “looking forward” to break. Schools can be more stressful around the holidays. Kids tend to get more upset, have more conflicts or crisis. There are a few reasons for this: kids who perceive that they already have less than others– perhaps materially, perhaps simply in terms of family or attention– get more upset around this time of year surrounded by advertisements of what people “should” have and how happy and fulfilled everyone should be.
I also have a theory that kids get upset before breaks because they are already missing the attention they receive in school, whether the attention is positive or negative. Breaks can be lonely for some kids: it can mean sitting at home, bored, with no company. If they do something good, no one notices. If they do something bad, no one notices. Attention is attention.
I spoke to a girl yesterday who was sent to my office for cutting a class. While she was admitting she was wrong in doing so, there was also a righteousness in her that somehow, life was unfair. Somehow, a tiny part of her felt justified in cutting class: her “problems,” in her mind, had forced her to cut. As I spoke to her, I realized I didn’t know her well. I had heard some concerns about her from teachers off and on: this student could be passive, or mildly negative about doing work.
In speaking directly to her and listening to her, I saw in her face and her essence that she was deeply upset. I also saw how articulate she was. I felt grateful that things had come to a head with this student; while I had always known who she is, I felt I was meeting her for the first time. I saw that by listening to her, I could take some of her upset away. She could leave feeling unburdened. I didn’t need to rush her, or look at my watch, or wish she was “over with” her problem. There was nothing else important in that moment but to listen to her. Vacation was non-existent.
I enjoyed the rest of my day, and didn’t run out when the day ended. There’s was much to do, to relish, and no need to rush. When I finally walked out of work, I felt invested: invested in work, invested in play, and fully alive.
*I will be taking a course in January 10, 11, and 12, 2018 in NYC led by Ariel and Shya Kane called Passion: Revitalize Your Life. The course has already “started working” for me!