Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Worth It or Not?

Why is it that we (and, in my experience, Americans are most guilty of this) are willing to work countless extra hours right before we go off on a vacation or long weekend to relax a bit?  And, more importantly, is it really worth it to exhaust yourself mentally and physically before resting up just in time to return to your regular work week?

I'm planning to drive up to Dallas on Friday morning for a weekend bluegrass festival up that way.  This is a big deal bluegrass festival when it comes to Texas and I've been looking forward to it for months.  As luck would have it, things are not going particularly smoothly at the office right now and I've been forced to work 11-12 hours per day this week just to get my Friday deadlines met by some time Thursday night.

That has meant almost no reading this week, way less sleep than normal, and a growing weariness on my part.  Every time this happens, I tell myself I will never fall into this trap again - only to do it again a few months later.  I suppose if it comes down to a choice of extra long hours vs. no vacation, vacation will win out every time.  But, really, now.  Is this the best we can do in this country?


  1. I definitely know what you mean about it always seeming like right before you go on vacation everything conspiring together to make it so you *really* have to slave away at work up to the minute your vacation starts. It happened to me just last week, actually. I'd do it every time if it means I get to have a few days away doing something I enjoy. The daily grind really gets me down after too many consecutive weeks, so it's worth it to me to take some vacation, but it really sucks that such a trade-off even exists. It doesn't seem like you should have to work like a dog to "earn" a precious few days off a year that never prove quite refreshing enough. =/

    Hope tomorrow goes a little more smoothly for you and that you have a great time at the bluegrass festival this weekend!

  2. I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to juggle projects around to suit my needs. When I take time off, I simply wait until I get back to do some things.

    However, as a nation, I think we have come to a point where our focus is on work to the exclusion of more important parts of our lives. As men, very few people even comment if we don't spend time with our families, but heaven forbid we work less than 40 - 50 hours in a week. That would make us lazy bums!

    The problem is, if we don't do it, we're sunk financially. Those of us lucky enough to have a good job, bend over backwards to keep it. Like you said though, is it worth it?

  3. During one of his usual "criticize America" sessions, my Opa commented that, if I had gotten an entry level job in Germany instead of America, I would, on my very first day on the job, have been able to take more vacation than I could take after a year of working at my entry level job in the U.S. Germans have a reputation for being hard workers, but they play hard too - they tend to take every last bit of their vacation.

    Sometimes I think American workers would be sick and tired much less if our vacation time worked the way it does in a lot of European countries (or Canada - I'm so jealous of my Canadian librarian friend's vacation time). It's hard to work efficiently when you're too tired to think.

    That said, I enjoy my job a lot - but I do hate that I sometimes feel guilty for taking time off. My very first vacation, two weeks long, recently wrapped up, and I've had this job for two years. The weeks before the vacation were toughest. All I could think about was all the work I still needed to do, and it was making me a wreck. Now that my vacation is over, it makes me a bit sad to think of how long I'm going to have to work in order to scrape up time for the next lengthy vacation.

  4. I don't think this is an exclusively American experience. Even though we in the UK and Europe have much more statutory holiday (vacation) time, it does seem that many of us exhaust ourselves clearing the decks before we take a break. No matter how much we plan ahead, events always seem to conspire against my DH and I before we go away, and we find ourselves working around the clock. Now we're in Beijing and the same thing is happening here too. Why oh why?

  5. Vacation? What's that? In my current job I had one week off the first 25 months. Since my job required me to be on my feet all day I was in a total state of complete exhaustion. My legs kept buckling up under me.

    No more! I've had it. Take this job and shove it! My employer refused to pay us when we were flooded out and couldn't get to the job! (the road was closed) And all this for crappy pay.

    My relatives in Sweden get TONS of vacation, plus PAID maternity leave, etc.

    I'm going to freelance, even if I starve. I want to choose what I want to do when I want to do it.

  6. Megan, you're right. It always seems to happen, but it's almost always worth it. The weekend, with one big complication, went very well. This first-time festival was tremendous and I had a great time.

  7. Book Nut, what you describe seems to have gotten worse and worse over the last two or three decades. I still don't understand why it has become absolutely necessary for most couples that both have to work. Our lives are terribly complicated by the fact that one of the married couple is no longer able to be a full-time manager of the home and children. We continue to cram everything into the precious few hours we do have off and the stress is killing us and breaking up marriages.

    Did we just learn to live on the luxuries we have, most of them completely unnecessary? Are we brainwashed into being consumers, first, and everything else second?

  8. Library Girl, I hear you. It was many years before I could get more than two weeks vacation a year, and I was not allowed to take more than one week at a time even then. I finally did get up to 6 weeks off but that was after 25 years with the same company. I've changed jobs and now I get 4 weeks, but I never have the time to use it all because it's too busy at work and no one does my job but me - no backup. Hang in there.

  9. Hershelian, I lived in London for several years and saw pretty much what you described. I worked with folks from the U.K., Spain, Denmark, France and Italy and, for the most part, they had the same problem preparing to get away from the office...but what great vacations they took! Always going someplace nice or exotic, even if they were visiting each other's countries. That's the great thing about easy to get to a whole new culture.

    Beijing must be a great experience. Do you guys get a month off, or is it even more? My ex-pat experience was always a one-month home leave plus whatever else I could manage to work in on my own time.

  10. Good luck, Lioness. Sounds like you're making the right move. There's no way a job should make you feel that badly about what you're doing to make a living...especially if the wage is as low as you describe and the work conditions as bad. Sometimes you just need to move on. In your case, you're almost certain to be happier as a freelancer. Best of luck.