November 2011- Vacation: All I never wanted

I just got back from vacation.

More accurately, I returned nearly a month ago. But it feels like I just got back. The problem with vacations is that, while they are supposed to be a break from work, they require so much extra work to prepare for, as well as the extra work required once returned from, that the expenditure of energy required to take a vacation is greater than the amount of energy recovered while on vacation. I’m sure there’s a mathematical formula here that can be derived from Newton’s second law of thermodynamics, but you can work that out for yourself.

Ask around, and a lot of people, possibly including yourself, will say that vacations are almost not worth taking, because missing a week or two of work requires so much preparation and extra work beforehand to make your job as easy as possible for whomever is taking your place while you are gone. Of course, once you return, you have another week or four of cleaning up the mess that was made while you were away, because no matter how simple you make your instructions, they’re only going to be simple to you- the person who took your place did a lot of interpreting, I guarantee it. So things will be out of place and things will be done wrong and to make it worse, it was all done with the best of intentions so you’re not even allowed to get mad over it.

Plus, they touched all your stuff.

Vacations are supposed to be a time to relax and recharge. Apparently, I’m not good at relaxing. On a 10-day trip, the first five days were spent anticipating a call from work with a problem that would be simple enough to fix in five minutes if I was there, but over the phone can take an hour to describe exactly which white button I mean to be pressed. This “vacation anxiety” steadily decreased over time, before moving into “vacation anxiety phase two,” which hits around the sixth day of a 10-day trip, steadily increasing as the day approaches when the vacation ends: the anxiety of returning to work and what I will find there.

Like sticky fingerprints on all my stuff.

So, between phase one and phase two of vacation anxiety, there’s only one day for actual relaxation. With this goal in mind, I’ll be damned if I’m not going to relax as hard as I can, concentrating singularly on this goal with a focus of mind unprecedented. And thereby apparently missing the point of a vacation entirely.

I’m not a militantly-structured person, but I do like my routines to stay steady. Vacations naturally disrupt routines, so I try to structure my vacations to make up for this. Keeping in mind the need to relax, I try to only structure vacation routines a day or two in advance. Sadly, the needs of other people tend to interrupt these scheduled routines, and thereby my scheduled relaxation. Sometimes, I think the best vacation I could possibly take would involve a stack of books and a closet that locks from the inside.

Because really, when I think about it, people can be the worst part of a vacation, especially if my vacation is returning to somewhere I used to live – vacation time turns into a social calendar of who I must visit, and when, and for how long, and who will be upset if they don’t receive a visit, and it all turns into a list and ranking of old friends and acquaintances based upon importance, which is really not to my liking. It’s easier just to keep my trips secret, but somehow, no matter how careful I am long-lost acquaintances discover, somehow, that I’m in town, and make contact. Then I’m forced to decide if I really want to reconnect with that person I used to date that ended things really, really badly.

Besides, when it comes down to it, meeting up with these people is not so much about catching up with lives, but in finding out just how many changes have happened, especially when compared to yourself. Keep in mind, however, that this works both ways – that old friend is just as interested in seeing how you have changed as well. And even if you don’t think you have (you see yourself every day, so 10 years worth of changes won’t be apparent to you, of course), for every time you think, “Holy mackerel, he’s gotten old,” your friend is thinking “Dang, he has gotten fat.”

Granted, this is not entirely all my fault. Being fat, I mean. See, the measure of energy is a calorie, and considering how much energy is required to prepare for a vacation (as previously discussed above), it’s no wonder that while on vacation, I put aside all thoughts of diet and ate at various restaurants that are not available to me locally, concentrating on restoring the level of energy I required to prepare for my vacation (let this equal A), as well as anticipating the caloric intake needed for the energy expenditure of extra work when I returned (let this equal B, and the energy gained from the vacation equals C.)

To put it in simpler terms, I pigged out. A lot. When A+B>C, the end result can only be O, which equals Oink.

(Oh hell, I’m using algebra. I promised I’d never do that in my adult life.)

By the end of any vacation, I’m usually more than ready to return home to my familiar surroundings and familiar routines. Because really, I think the actual point of a vacation is to make me appreciate the things I have back home. Relaxation certainly doesn’t happen, and I can always achieve a big O alone at home. The more I appreciate what I have, therefore, the less I really need to take a vacation. It’s simple math and logic.

So maybe next time, I’ll just skip the vacation, and stay at home. I think I’ll be better off. Because if nothing else, I’ll save all that time I spend wiping my stuff clean at work.

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