I have already written a post about why I cannot for the life of me enjoy vacations, but I thought it would be a fun experiment to write another post about it. It seems I cannot figure out why I am so miserable on vacations even though this misery has occurred year after year for more than a decade: I still have no clue why I hate vacations so much. So I thought it would be fun to write a new post without reading the previous post. It might be fun and enlightening comparing and contrasting these two posts, so let’s see what happens.
As a quick introduction if you haven’t read the first post: I hate vacations. For some reason while I can’t wait to take vacation actually being away from works leaves me on-edge. I feel like I should be doing something and my general mood is one of being lost, undirected, and antsy. It’s like a perpetual feeling of having something you need to do without there being anything to actually do. I find that I cannot relax as something is always prodding around in my head telling me that “You should probably be doing something right now, shouldn’t you?” It’s even worse because the feelings are so contradictory: how can you be both bored and feeling like you have something to do?
I’ve always been this way and the problem only gets worse year after year. You see, I work a union job and when I started I was given two weeks of vacation: one week was a mandatory vacation week and the other was an optional week. This wasn’t too big of a problem because I only had to be gone one or two weeks out of 52. The problem is worse now that I have three weeks of mandatory vacation and one optional week: I’m forced on vacation for 3 out of the 52 weeks in a year (5% of the year if that helps). Considering this it’s no wonder that my vacation anxiety has increased as my vacation weeks have increased. I now have almost an entire month every year where I have unavoidable anxiety, antsiness, and uselessness that I dread every time a vacation week comes up. It is a shitty feeling.
I want to also note how stupid it is to actually complain about taking vacation! Most people don’t get jack shit for vacation and are nearly forced to work every week of the year. Complaining that you’re not happy on vacation sounds like a rich person complaining about their house being too big. Like, wow bro, that sucks but it sure is hard to feel sorry for you when you own three Ferraris.
So I have this predicament every year where I’m forced to take off work and am mostly miserable while off. This had lead me to try various techniques to make myself feel better and none has really worked over the years. My first technique was to spread the weeks out evenly through the year; this allowed me to “enjoy” my vacations throughout the year while breaking up the flow of constant work. This just allowed for multiple shitty weeks to appear throughout the year. I’ve tried making “to-do” lists while I’m on vacation but this only seems to pressure me into doing chores all the time; I end up feeling busy and pressured even if I am off work. My usual go-to technique has been to simply drink: by drinking you keep yourself entertained, busy, and preserve your sense of self-worth (mostly because you’re fucking drunk and life is fun and confusing and you can do random shit). I used to think my vacation drinking hinted at something deeper psychologically; I now think I drink just to not be fucking bored.
Making matters worse is having anxiety about going back to work! You’d think that being miserable on vacation would make work seem appealing, but it doesn’t. It seems that after I actually go on vacation I do enjoy something about being away from work. So that going back to work also gives me anxiety. What the fuck is wrong with me? Am I just never happy?
My new theory is that I hate adjusting to new things. It isn’t so much going to work or staying home from work that I hate, but that I hate changes to my daily/weekly routine. This could explain why I have a mild hatred of the weekends to. It isn’t that I’m bored or used to being busy or needing projects to do but with just flip-flopping from “work mode” to “vacation mode” and back to “work mode” over and over throughout the year. Obviously placing vacations separate from each other would only serve to worsen my mood as I’d have more “adjusting” to do. This seems to be the case with past experiences. I simply hate adjusting to new things that break my daily flow.
The obvious solution to this problem is to take all of my vacation weeks at the same time: instead of having a week here and there off I’d take an entire month off! This initially sounds like it would be bad as you probably don’t want to go back to work, but according to my theory, this should minimize the number of “adjusting” phases. When you go on vacation you hate life but — as people do — you adjust to your new norm. After you adjust you can enjoy your time away from work! The same is true for when you go back to work; yes, it’ll suck at first but after a few days you adjust to the new normal and you’re more or less
happy able to deal with life.
A small problem appears here though: I don’t have enough seniority to pull off a block of vacations! While I tried it this year I simply couldn’t. My vacations this year are all a week or two apart. I take a week off work, I work a week, then I take another week off, and back to work…and so on. Luckily my weeks off are still close enough together that I can sort of “remember” the vacation mindset and each week of vacation is slightly more enjoyable than the weeks before it. While I haven’t solved the problem I seemed to have minimized it this year.
Another thing that I’ve found that helps is to have a “suggested to-do list”. I bitched before about having a “strict to-do list” because this makes you feel obligated to do things on vacation. It just feels like a chore list. My “suggested to-do list” is merely that: a list of thing that I can and should work on, but they’re more like large projects than simple “to-do” menial shit. For example I had things like “finish a painting,” “finish and ebook,” and “write blog posts” for my list. If I’m bored, antsy, or depressed I just look at the list and begrudgingly sit down to work on a project even if I don’t want to.
This “keep busy at all expenses” has lead to a unique few weeks off of work. A few of these are large projects, but most of them are just random shit that I decided to do while not having anything better to do. Boredom leads to creativity, even if it is a stupid sort of creativity. Here’s what I actually did do during my past three weeks off of work:
- Finished Facebook Sucks ebook
- Paint a picture of Princess Zelda
- Wrote a few blog posts
- Washed and waxed my car
- Changed my dad’s car’s brakes
- Helped put my dad’s car’s tire back on after it randomly fell off
- Helped put my dad’s car’s lug nuts back on after the tire almost fell off randomly a second time
- Got high on cough medicine
- Helped my dad buy/install a car battery while high on cough medicine
- Listened to music
- Went on a 34-mile bike ride
- Went on a bunch of shorter bike rides
- Got high on cough medicine a second time
- Figured out the meaning of life while high on cough medicine
- Forgot the meaning of life because I didn’t write it down
- Read some books
- Cleaned and greased bike bearings
- Put a new AC on our shitty Dodge Caravan
- Change brakes on my friend’s car
- Shitposted on Facebook
- Went to (and hated) Six Flags
- Made candles
- Finished and published a book on options trading
- Mowed the yard a few times
That was kinda a rambly post, so to wrap things up a little bit: I hate vacations and have always hated vacations. I’m always bored/unmotivated and feel anxious/on-edge with a persistent feeling that there’s really something I should be doing. Over the years I’ve tried various techniques — like making lists and breaking up my vacation — in a futile attempt to enjoy my vacations. This year I’ve realized that, maybe, my vacations suck because I need to adjust to being away from work. My anxiety is mostly from having an extra five hours of free time a day that I don’t know how to utilize. Going back to work also has one of these “adjustment phases” so my grand idea was to take all my vacation at once to minimize these “adjusting phases”. I also wasn’t able to do this this year. And to keep myself busy on vacation I’ve resorted to various random things that sound really stupid when you write them out. So that’s it: vacation sucks because you have to adjust to being on vacation in the first place to enjoy it.
Looking back on my last vacation post wasn’t as interesting as I expected. I didn’t get into the nitty-gritty psychological details as to why I can’t enjoy vacation. I mostly complained about the fact that I never do anything on vacation and how I squander the entire week off. Something about having too much free time causes you to procrastinate endlessly. I also hinted at some deep interplay between anxiety and productivity that I touch on in an upcoming post. To hint at: apparently I’m more productive and motivated the more stressed out I am, which is counterintuitive.