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What I Did On My Summer Vacation

My family didn’t go on vacation. Ever. So the concept is quite foreign to me. Oh, I “get” it, intellectually. We all need a break, blah blah blah. But it isn’t in my programming, really.

I think my Mom would have been a traveller, given half a chance. She famously (well, famously to me anyway) hitchhiked across the continent with her best buddy, Charlotte, after they both graduated from nursing school. Whenever they ran out of money, they stopped and got nursing jobs for a few months, then carried on. What an adventure that must have been, exploring North America in the late-40’s, post-war era. They traveled together for over a year, I think.  Across the prairies to Vancouver, down the coast to LA, through New Orleans and back up through New York City. That’s my Mom.

But … was it a vacation? Not really. It was an adventure. Soon, she married my father and started having babies. When I was four, and Mom had been married almost 20 years, she took me to Florida. We stayed for a week with my aunt and uncle in their trailer. That was the only vacation we ever took, and I only vaguely remember it.

Actually, now that I think of it, I remember being told something about a camping trip to the Pinery Provincial Park when I was still in a wicker bassinet.  Hardly an experience that would have left an indelible mark.

My father used words like “tomfoolery” and “lazy bastards” whenever anyone took a day off work, so the concept of taking an extended break was certainly not in his programming, either. Those words also applied to Christmas and birthday celebrations but I think I’ve managed not to let his severe case of the grumps spoil my fun on those days. I’m not sure if it is a family farming culture thing – no time to rest! – or just my father’s peculiar inability to let go of his Protestant work ethic. But we didn’t go anywhere as a family, or plan anything like a trip or a “vacation”.

That makes it sound like we didn’t have any fun – we certainly did. There was card-playing, board games, lots of horsing around and activity with my brothers, including building our own ice rinks, fishing the local creeks, swinging from ropes into piles of straw in the barn, and breaking windows with errant baseballs. I spent a significant amount of time begging my mother to buy me, or let me buy, a mini-bike. Later, for me, there were organized sports (hockey, softball, swimming), music lessons and theatre projects. But … no vacations, per se.

My life looks a bit like this now, in fact. Busy – a lovely balance between work and play in my day-to-day life. However, now that I am better at recognizing the signs and appreciating the rhythm of modern life, I am faced with the indisputable fact that I Must Go Away From Time To Time And Shift Gears. The signs are clearer to me now than they once were: emotional exhaustion, lack of motivation, mild depression, disinterest, disorganization, lack of creativity. The rhythm, particularly of my primary job as a professor, couldn’t be clearer. This great gaping maw of time stretches from mid-June to late August, begging to be filled with interesting distractions.

What do I typically do? This year, my official obligations ended with my institution on June 18, a Friday. My first client meeting was scheduled for – wait  for it – June 21, Monday. Now that I really think on it, there is something almost obscene about this. As with other years, I have sort of puttered through the summer, not really planning much, doing some work for clients, sleeping in, trying to relax and be less structured, spending some lovely time with friends, letting things unfold. But it doesn’t feel very “vacation”-like. I’m terrible at planning vacations in advance – I have no training, role-modeling or examples from my past to guide me – and I shudder at forking out the dough. Check with anyone I’ve been involved with for any length of time … they’ll confirm this in spades.

How does someone like me really go on vacation? I have learned that I can trick myself into it. In 2008, I took off by myself to Barbados and justified it as a “strategic planning retreat” for my business. I found a bed and breakfast with high speed wireless and spent a portion of every day drumming up new ideas and documenting a business plan for the next few years. Of course, I also got a tan and swam in the ocean a lot. This compromise – a working vacation – is about as close as I’m going to get to the real deal.

So, what have I done on my summer vacation at this last-minute cottage rental? I have:

  • Developed a workshop (powerpoint and materials) on recruitment best practices for a client. First time I’ve prepared a session to be delivered by someone else. Very liberating.
  • Developed a bio for a client to be included in a bid for a significant chunk of work. I love spin.
  • Completed the first edit on the script for Fundy Boy: Back to Broadway. The original gang is re-assembling, I’ll be directing/lighting/running around. Rehearsals start late August for an October 1-2 staging. Be there!

Still to be completed:

  • Working out operational workflows for two specific processes for a client, mapping out and justifying the recommended changes in processes.
  • Creating a workplan for my two weeks of prep prior to classes starting at Centennial. Lots to do … very little time to do it!

Oh … I have also …

  • Slept like a rock
  • Gotten up early, with the mist on the water, and spent hours fishing on a silent, still lake, absorbing the sound of the loons
  • Dozed on the floating dock, listened to audiobooks and gotten rather a lot of sun
  • Re-connected with dear, long-time friends who also have a cottage on this lake and eaten steak and – mmmm – mashed potatoes and s’mores
  • Gone swimming
  • Spent some glorious time with Knotty Girl when she dropped by
  • Bailed out the boat, in the pouring rain, so I can get back to shore for supplies (this was actually kind of fun although I’m very glad it had stopped raining by the time I’d returned)
  • Pondered blogging and a re-entry therein

Still to come:

  • More hanging out with Knotty Girl, and two more joyful and lovely fishing buddies who are arriving for the weekend
  • More dozing on dock
  • More fishing and swimming
  • Some yummy cottage meals when the gang is here
  • Perhaps some live action Scrabble playing and Balderdashing
  • More blogging?

So, this business of tricking myself into vacationing actually works. As long as I feel I’m accomplishing something, I’m good to go. I think of it as the Protestant-work-ethic-work-around.

OK – I need to think about workflows now. Well, shortly. First, a dip in the lake … I may have gotten a sunburn writing this.

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4 comments to “What I Did On My Summer Vacation”

  1. great great piece 😉

  2. Be sure to stay up late Thursday or Friday for the meteor showers. The view from the cottage should be fantastic. Enjoy!

  3. Just getting caught up on blog reading (finally). I very much enjoyed this one! Thanks.

  4. […] few weeks ago, I submitted this blog entry from 2010 to Cottage Life magazine, in response for a call for online writers. I received a rather curt […]

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