Why taking time off is good for work
When I left Chicago Thursday morning for a family reunion, I rode a semi-crowded Megabus, thinking of the work I was leaving behind. I sent emails to editors as I listened to Pop Culture Happy Hour and other NPR podcasts. I had a moment to think about my future and my family while staring out the window at lush forests and farms alongside the freeway.
Upon my arrival, I was welcomed by tight, loving hugs from my grandparents, my first cousin, and my mother. I missed my family, and their embrasses were physical reminders of how much they missed me. The next day, we headed to Pennsylvania for a family reunion for a couple of days and drove back to Detroit.
As I sit here typing this, still in my hometown Detroit before I leave for Chicago tomorrow morning, I’ve come to realize how important it is to take time off for yourself.
I finished my studies at Columbia College nearly two years ago, so the seasons are no longer broken up by spring, winter and summer breaks. And usually conversations about work-life balance center around working mothers, not recent grads still trying to figure out which way is up.
Growing up, my mom and I didn’t take vacations. For us, taking time off was out of reach. I get my work ethic from my family, but I’m just now—slowly—learning how to set aside time and funds to take small bits of time off.
As a freelancer, it’s tough to take time for yourself. If you don’t work, you don’t eat; therefore, it’s easy to get caught in a work-a-holic trap. And it doesn’t help that I love my work to the point where it doesn’t feel like work most of the time.
To help ease the pain of feeling like I’d be losing valuable time, I took the necessary provisions—reporters notebooks, my digital reporter and a laptop—just in case one of my editors had a question I could answer quickly before heading the reunion. I sent out some feature pitches before I left. But most importantly, I didn’t incessantly check my email during the trip. Remaining present is key.
I came back saddened to leave my family but refreshed enough to press on with my work. That time for refreshment, that renewal will make you more alert and present upon your return.
Give yourself space to not work, so that when you return to doing what you love, it’ll feel less like work.
Tell me where your favorite places to unplug are in the comments or email me at email@example.com