Everything is Nothing at All
The summer had taken its toll on me. Work had been busy and stressful for the past several months. I was working long hours and going into the office on the weekends. I was traveling to and from New York so much that I was starting to not like being in a city that I truly love. My personal life was in perpetual dysfunction. Recent personal time away from DC and the office was more stressful than relaxing. I hadn’t slept well in months. It became clear to me that I needed a real vacation more than ever.
For nearly every year since I have been alive my family has vacationed on the Jersey Shore for two weeks in July. I have always looked forward to the Shore though my enthusiasm has varied over the years. When I was young I loved the time my family spent at the beach. Specifically I loved all the activities that came with our beach vacation: swimming in the ocean, riding waves on a body board, playing Wiffle Ball with my brothers, playing cards and board games with my extended family, and going to the Point Pleasant and Seaside Heights’ boardwalks with all the food, games, and rides.
My love of the Shore started to wane in my teenage years as my siblings and extended family grew old enough to drink in bars. I was left behind to watch television with my parents. I only started to enjoy vacation on the Shore again when I turned 21. Then college life ended and I had to start working for a living. I no longer could find or justify the time to spend more than just a long weekend at the Shore. All the things I looked forward to doing had to be done in a few days instead of leisurely over a week or two. It no longer felt like a vacation.
Last year I made the decision that I was going to make this year’s trip to the Shore a relaxing venture. I blocked off a whole week on my calendar and didn’t allow work commitments to affect the planned time off. As the time grew near for the vacation to begin I also made the decision that this vacation I was not going to make any plans on what to do. In fact, I decided that I was going to do as little as possible.
I never imagined how good it would feel to sit in a beach chair for 7 straight days with a good book and my iPod and watch the waves come in every 5 to 10 seconds. It didn’t matter that it was blazing hot and the sand nearly burned my feet. The only interruptions to this routine would be the occasional dip in the ocean to cool off, lunch, and engaging in polite conversation with my family. Otherwise, the time belonged to me and my thoughts. I thought about the things in life that are important to me which didn’t include work or life in DC. One of the things I couldn’t stop thinking about was why I hadn’t done a “week of nothing” sooner. It became clear to me that I have not taken very good care of myself over the past several years. I decided that from here on I would find a good amount of time each year to do something for myself, even if that something was nothing.
I came home from a week at the Shore relaxed and refreshed–free of stress and sleeping well. Then, Monday came around. Back to the office. Waiting for me was a stack of mail, 200 new email messages, too many voicemails, and work that needed to be done ASAP. That’s the funny thing about vacations: you can leave your life behind, but it still goes on; worse, it will be waiting for you when you get back. I got through the day be thinking of the next time I would take a break from my life in DC. I hear Europe has some nice beaches.