Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

Vacationary Tale

18 December 2008

Dear J-

Our company has the policy — as so many do, I’m sure — of vacation rollover; our particular policy states that you can roll over half of what you earn in a year.  For instance, I get two weeks every year, so at the end of 2008, I can carry one week over into 2009.  No doubt that I managed to carry some over from 2007  (yet how, I’m not sure, as I thought I’d burned it all at figgy’s birth), but I’m standing here in the ashes of 2008 with another free day staring me down in the face — use me or lose me!  And there I go, thinking I’ll come back in tomorrow to get a little done while other folks are out.  The motivation is that the sooner I get the work done, the earlier I can leave, and thus the more Friday I’ll have left.

The demotivating factor, of course, is that I’m coming in on a day off to do work someone else should have done as well as work I’ll do better knowing that no one’s going to visit me at my desk.  And yet, in the midst of all the hand-shaking congratulations and end-of-year hugs today (I am, after all, not the only one with vacation to burn; most of the other folks I’m not going to see again until next year), I can’t honestly say that I’m completely envious.  I’d love to have the time off of course, but finding your own enjoyment in the job is its own reward.

Mental gymnastics:  I used to browse surplus and pawn sites on the web and conduct enough research to know that one of my particular dream jobs would be to work in a museum.  Someone, after all, has done the research to write up the little exhibit blurbs, selected and sought the exhibits themselves, and grouped them in logical ways.  I find myself in the same position at work sometimes; I get an odd thrill of excitement at digging through dusty vendor manuals and catalogs (I’m usually mildly claustrophobic except when surrounded by high shelves and musty paper), the longer the better, knowing that some nugget of information is out there that will make ordering our parts much easier.  Everyone wants to feel important, after all, and the difference is in how you perceive the importance of your task.  So it’s off to work tomorrow, and on to more mysteries unraveled.

Mike

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Dark Days

10 November 2008

Dear J-

I’m sorry I keep returning to this subject of the darkness, but between the compressed work schedule and the clock change, it’s been dramatic — leave in the dark, arrive in the dark.  Now’s a pretty good time to be releasing that Twilight movie (we read the books:  short judgement, fun yet cloying).  As for the folks living closer to the Arctic Circle, all I can say is good luck.  Unfortunately, it matches my mood; dark skies extend overhead and clouds cover my spirits; I need to find some excuse to go out and enjoy some sun while I’m at the office.

This is also the time of year when I seem to lose enchantment with the sport of American football — for all the exciting moments and strategy (how does this play/formation match up against that one?), much of the game is played in sporadic bursts.  This is the time of the season that playoff pictures start to make more sense, but parity has levelled so much of the league this year; no one’s running away with it — even Tennessee, who are playing solidly — and so we’re left with pundits and experts looking about as astute as a stock-picking chimp.

The recent vacation seems to have highlighted the contrasts in where I am and where I might want to be; really, commuting like this?  We passed our high speed rail initiative, but there’s still no planned direct link out of San Diego to LA.  I like where we’re living now, and every day that reminds me of the drawbacks of work — really, the commute — doesn’t strengthen my resolve to move; it makes me want to cast my net.

Mike

Define Success

26 October 2008

Dear J-

There are those people who are refreshed and recharged by their vacation times, ready to tackle all sorts of obstacles and challenges at work.  Then there’s me, hoping that the days off didn’t hurt my memory of the password I use to log in.  The days are now conspiring against me, too; it’s dark so early now that I’m having to use lights for the ride to and from the vanpool.  Time moves at a blur, speeding up, asking me to carve a pumpkin before Friday’s Halloween.

As I get older, I get more set in my ways.  Things must be just so.  Routines, paramount; this past week and a half has been a lesson in rolling with new things, agreeing and deciding on the fly.  More than idle fears about being locked out of the system, it’s losing that freedom and going back to a daily schedule — production, numbers, bring this down, bring that up, let’s see some paper fly — that bothers me the most.  I’ve had a taste.  It’s exhausting, but I think I can make it work.

I finished the Chronicles of Prydain series (Lloyd Alexander) a couple of weeks ago, and the book that won the Newbery, The High King, strikes me as one of those retroactive Oscar votes — Scorsese winning for The Departed instead of Goodfellas, for instance — as the preceding Taran Wanderer is by far the strongest of the lot.  Suffice it to say that losing your goal isn’t the end of the story; choosing to re-aim doesn’t mean that all is lost.  Success is a relative term, and you choose its definition, no one else does.

Mike

Mortal Coil

16 October 2008

Dear J-

We’ll be on a trip the next few days; theVet’s sister has a timeshare in Palm Springs, so we’ll see if our daughters — cousins — can coexist in the same small space.  It’s one thing when figgy was relatively small and inert, but I suspect that there will be some initial bashfulness later on.  Expect the same format as last February’s trip — I’ll keep writing, and will update once we’re back.

But it’s the trip — the unexpected trip afterwards that I may end up making on my own — that weighs on my mind.  In brief, one of my aunts suffered a second stroke over the past weekend, one severe enough that she has yet to wake up from it.  Severe enough that do-not-resuscitate orders are being mentioned and finding use.  It’s a decision that there’s not a lot of research on, and one without comforting books and cards saying that it was the right one.  The decision has to be made at an emotional nadir, which leads to all kinds of second-guessing and self-doubt, compounded by the utter finality of it all.  And it sucks that my cousins already have to make it.

I’ve tried to imagine what a choice like that must be like, but I can’t fathom it; some things, I suppose, must be experienced to gain understanding.  You spend your time on earth as though you’ll live forever — so far, so good — and sure, any responsible person makes arrangements beforehand, but it’s still unexpected.  As children, all you know, all your world is your parents starting out; I see how figgy sees me and I’m always humbled by it.  You grow up, you get friends and a family of your own and your folks get put off to the side — but not forgotten, never disappeared, never all the way out; you keep that in your back pocket knowing as you do they’ll be there for you.  Where does it go?  Where do we go?  How do we continue?

Mike

Garbage In

1 October 2008

Dear J-

At some point, the output just can’t keep up with the work hours input.  Being busy all day makes it go fast, but we look up and the hours you had counted on to accomplish your goals start to shrink.  It feels like a strange brand of controlled chaos, moving things out of the way just enough to keep them from failing spectacularly, just a small amount of blood spilled.  What do we end up sacrificing with long hours spent away from home?

Now I’m looking at taking a vacation during the first weekend of our mandatory no vacation time.  The mitigating circumstance is that most of our work is done up front, but there’s always something that comes up that needs to be here tonight — I fear that feeling of being a spoiled brat, that I’m getting special treatment because I still care too much about whether or not my coworkers — anyone, really — like me.  It’s like what my friend would tell me about life in the Air Force; don’t be last, but don’t be first, either.

When did blending in become more than a survival skill?  Who decided that it should be an aspiration?  When did we start penalizing performance with extra work?  How have we shifted to decrying academia as producing pointy-headed ideas ill-suited for the real world?  Isn’t it strange how the same people who tell us, in folksy overtones, how much they look out for your interests while hoping you don’t notice the gap between what they preach and how they live?

Mike

First Fall

22 September 2008

Dear J-

The equinox brings us one day closer to a new season of hockey, but other than the turning of the calendar, there’s little external change out here.  Ventilating the house at night doesn’t take on quite the same urgency, and I may have to break out long pants on the weekend one of these days.  The greenery doesn’t change colors as quickly or dramatically (that large tree in front of our house seems to turn leaves from green to brown on the way off the tree; it’s an odd juxtaposition, a green tree with sere ground cover); palm trees and eucalyptus never can decide to stop being green.  Even our rainy season isn’t all that rainy.

We’ll be going up into the mountains on vacation in another few weeks; though career issues seem far from being resolved, it’s clear I can’t continue without taking some sort of break from being surly and unhelpful; the more things pile up the more paralyzed I feel without knowing where to turn first.  It’s funny, the things I choose to reward myself with are often the same things — camera gear, video games — I can’t afford the time to play with.

And yet just half an hour after hitting the road I’m able to get my head put back together; it’s remarkable how well-sorted I can be without having to deal with simultaneously prioritized tasks.  Still on various to-do lists:  trade camera gear for more gear, replace that kitchen faucet (now looking shabbier and more disreputable by the moment), set up a MythTV box or two, continue to slowly empty the house of junk and stuff.  Written down, it looks like it’s simple enough to divide and conquer, right?

Mike

Summer Now

21 August 2008

Dear J-

Do you remember the exact moment you decided to live in California?  For me, it was when you called me up — excitedly — coming back to school from winter break and exclaiming that you needed to wear shorts.  In January.  The summer heat here starts early and stays late, but the daylight doesn’t follow.  I remember back when I lived nearer to Canada, summer days were insanely long — the sun would be well-up early and stick around until nearly bedtime.  It made the delineation between seasons more dramatic, especially in winter, when the day was fleeting, at best — slow to rise and early to retire.  Back to southern California and the mostly summer with a few months of rain.

Other people keep telling me that there’s only a limited amount of real estate that’s like this in the world — we’re living somewhere that other people want to come on vacation, and that’s still amazing every day I realize it.  The whole of I-5 passing through San Diego County is pretty scenic compared to other stretches I’ve been on (all the way from border to border), and there’s little I’d trade.

Except, of course, for the whole every-year-this-place-goes-up-in-flames (the hills are starting to parch and go brown).  And traffic.  And home prices, still inflated beyond reason (I remember pricing Kauai real estate and discovering, sadly, that San Diego was outpacing it).  Yet there’s something magical that keeps my head up and alert, at least every time I leave work.  Find something that works — and my life is nigh-perfect — and do what you need to keep it that way.  Simple.

Mike

Island Mind

14 July 2008

Dear J-

I’ve had Hawaii on the brain for the last couple of days and I think I finally understand why:  we got married in 2000 and promptly ran off to Maui; in 2004 we’d had enough of not having real vacations, so we went to Kauai.  Yet this year, nothing; we’d rather not subject figgy to the sensation of spending five hours strapped to a seat when she’s just getting up and mobile.

Hawaii’s significant to me as the first place we took an extended trip together without the schedule-planning influence of older folks or school or fitting in around someone else’s desires; we went with no plans other than having a car and a place to stay and no to-do checklist.  Back up for a moment, now, to 1981 and somewhere between Calgary and Banff.  There’s four adults and four kids crammed into a car that’s designed for six, a contemporary Ford Fairmont, and we’ve got an itinerary.  Must see.  Lake Louise, Vermillion Lakes, glaciers, Continental Divide.  I remember several things from the trip, but the opalescent jade glacier-melt lakes were not among them, instead, sneaking way too many people into a single room, being jammed up next to grandma for hours at a time, and the feeling of being on the road.  Forever.

When we went to Kauai four years later there was even less planned out, but the moments we had still sparkle in comparison:  I remember getting up what felt like insanely early thanks to still being adjusted to mainland time and getting out to the trail at the Na Pali shore just after sunrise and hiking that rugged path without seeing another human for what felt like hours.  Afternoons, we’d hit up a rental shop and find someplace to snorkel (the Tunnels near Hanalei being a particularly nice spot).  It’s not to say that I wouldn’t enjoy traveling with my parents, but  I think I might be too spoiled to.

It was less about the place and more about reveling in freedom — no schedule, no pressures, just finding something to bum around with for a few hours and then back to the hotel, back into the water, swimming every afternoon and knowing the biggest decision of the day was coordinating all the meals together to avoid eating the same thing twice.  Yeah, we can handle a shift in schedule.  We’ll pencil that in around the snorkeling and napping.

Yesterday we’re slathering on sunscreen and preparing to head down to Mission Bay.  Sun.  Sand.  Warm water, palm trees, shoreline gently sloping into the water, public-access parking and I look at the odometer:  only five miles from home, only five miles to that Hawaii state of mind.  We’ll be back, I promise.

Mike

Transition Manager

16 June 2008

Dear J-

The debatable effects of training are starting to show their toll:  we’re all wandering around pretending we know what we know when in fact it’s clear that it’s all a game of bluffing:  we’re not interested in outrunning the bear, we’re just interested in getting enough knowledge to out run each other, prove that we can eke out a bit more work than the next fellow.  This impending change has brought about different sides of my coworkers:  some are interviewing for other slots, some seem out on sudden catastrophic vacation, and meanwhile it’s me stuck in class and trying to hold the bulging seams together on breaks, making sure that everything flows smoothly enough to keep the parts coming in.

I either had a moment of sheer blind panic sitting in class this afternoon, or something’s telling me to go see the doctor for a racing heart:  I zoned out for half a minute, as the instructor was going over stuff I’d probably never see, and suddenly, it was as if I’d walked into the wrong class altogether.  Any clue what’s going on?  Nope.  I suspect the moments of terror will only increase the closer we get to 1 July, and the petty fraud of foisting inadequate training company-wide in the six weeks prior is exposed.  Still, it’s funny, and I suspect Joe was right; I do enjoy being the go-to guy, the one with the answers and none of the questions.  Yeah, it’s a silly little power trip, but it’s less about feeling better and more about knowing that someone’s gotta get moving here, learning and hoping to make the transition a little easier.

Mike