So every once in a while someone inevitably asks me something about vacation. Either they ask when the last time I took a vacation was, or we’re talking about theirs and I comment that I’m jealous, or something. But somewhere along the line, it turns into a question of why I don’t take vacations.
And here’s the honest answer: I can’t.
It’s not a matter that I don’t want to, because I would absolutely love to be able to take a week and go somewhere else, just relax, go read on a beach or whatever. (I don’t really like the beach but that’s not the point here.) But let’s start with the initial question of when the last time I went on vacation was.
As far as I can really remember, the last time I took an extended time off of work and went somewhere else was back in the fall of 2010. I went to the UK in order to visit friends and family, and went as a sort of graduation present to myself after finishing college.
But JC, what about your trips to Ireland? You mean the ones I went on for school?
But JC, what about the trip to Williamsburg? We’re talking about extended periods of time here. A long weekend is never much of a true vacation; it requires days in the car of being uncomfortable and carsick. I love being at the destination, but it’s the getting there and back that I’m less fond of. So let’s look at the last time I went somewhere for longer than 4-ish days, for the sole purpose of relaxation. And as far as I can really remember, that’s the trip to the UK.
So it’s been 8 years since I just had a chance to really relax. At this point people look at me like I’ve lost my mind. But JC, why haven’t you taken a vacation since then? You need to rest! I don’t doubt it. But taking vacations requires money, and that’s not something that my family has a great deal of. Money for gas, for accommodations sometimes, for food, for anything we may want to do at said destination… it keeps adding up. And none of us can really afford that right now. I’ve tossed enough money I don’t have around in an effort to make life feel vaguely normal for my family and I don’t regret it, but trips are bigger.
Then it becomes a scheduling issue. This is why we didn’t take vacations much when I was a child. With my dad being the morning man DJ at a radio station, he was expected in all the time–no summers off. Then when he worked for the church, weekends became impossible as well. But you’re an adult now, JC. Just take some vacation time and go somewhere. Ah yes. Here’s the heart of the issue.
I love my job; I want to preface all of this with that statement. I am incredibly lucky to have the job and the bosses that I do, and that they are understanding as they are. I could not ask for anywhere better to be.
So I get a week of vacation (a work week, so 40 hr) and somewhere between 3-5 sick days a year. (That number may be flexible.) So assuming I’m taking a week off to go somewhere, that wipes out all of my vacation days for the year. Leaving me with the 3-5 sick days in order to do everything else.
I don’t know if you all know what some of the symptoms of depression are, at least the ones I’ve found that I experience. In my research over the years, I’ve found that a generic sort of illness/nausea without many other supporting symptoms is fairly common for depression–and has been happening to me for years. There’s almost certainly one day a month where I would rather curl up and die in my bed than do anything else in the world. I’ve obviously learned to deal with these days, though the people I’m around can usually tell when I’ve having one. It makes the rest of the week more difficult, because it means I never really get a chance to recover from the bad day until the weekend, when I can’t do anything else because I’m recovering from the bad day I had on Tuesday.
Occasionally these days get the best of me, and I have to call off because I literally cannot drag myself out of my bed. (Yay depression.) These count as sick days. Doctor’s appointments would count for sick days, if I can’t get in early enough in the morning. Just between those, it’s easy to hit that 3-5 number in a year.
This then leaves literally no time for anything else which might happen. I can tell you already that one vacation day this year was used so that I could grieve the cat we had to put to sleep far too young. One has been used for a wedding, and one more will be split between two more weddings. One will be used for an event in November that I am running for the day in conjunction with NaNoWriMo, which I’ve done in some facet for the past several years. Only one have I taken off so far as a true “day of rest” because my co-worker had been on vacation for a week and then ill for a day or two, and it had been a particularly stressful and busy week and I just needed a day to step back and recuperate.
Count those. Those are my five vacation days, already used. My three sick days have been used. It is the middle of September.
And this is with a job which has given me more in the way of vacation and sick time than every other job I’ve had–and I am not complaining about it. They have been more than generous.
The type of schedule I wish I had is completely impractical from an employer’s perspective. I would not ever expect it, no matter how much I would love it. Because this is what I wish I had: A week of vacation time–a calendar week. Two calendar weeks of personal days–because then I’d have my day a month and a few others just in case. A work week of sick days–so that I could properly use them for illness that kept me in bed, and doctor’s visits I couldn’t schedule earlier in the day.
I know it’s impractical. I know equally that there are some people who would tell me that I’m wrong. That it’s a reasonable request to accommodate for my mental issues. That some jobs they’ve known or had have given their employees unrestricted paid time off.
I know that people would abuse that. Though I would not, it is too slippery of a slope for our culture. Others would take advantage of the kindness, and those of us who could really use it, would not be able to have it. So I would never ask. I could never.
But I want people to understand why I laugh when they ask me about vacations. I want people to know why I don’t search more diligently for therapy–because when would I go? How would I pay for it?
This is the face of depression. This is the face of anxiety. It’s not always obvious. Sometimes it hides behind too loud of laughter, and a calm voice for the clients on the phone. Sometimes it hides because that’s the only way it’s learned to survive.
Be kind to your neighbors. You never know what someone is going through.