In the USA (where I’ve been living since 1999), people are obsessed with one thing:
It’s the only nation in the world where vacation is not a right but a privilege. If and when Americans dare to take a break, it’s usually only for a few days allowing them to… do some more work at home.
When they finally take a vacation, they travel to Europe where they see ten countries in five days and come back exhausted (telling me how much they liked Amsterdam which they think is the capital of Denmark).
Of course I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the point. Your worth in the USA, is determined by your work. People publicly boast about how much they work, how long they stay in the office, and how much overtime they have clocked up, just to please the Big Kahuna.
These days, people can’t leave their job without checking the email inbox at least a few times a day. It’s an addiction! What if the boss needs you to do something, or a colleague has a question? Heaven forbid you’re not available!
In a way it’s even worse when you work from home, because your job never leaves you. Freelancers are constantly posting on social media about all the amazing projects they are working on, and the ones that are in the pipeline.
“Look at me. I’m still relevant because I’m working my behind off!”
Do you want to know something?
Americans spend more hours working, yet they are less productive than most of the rest of world. People in vacation nations do more in less time while feeling less stressed. To them, work is not their life but a way to make a living. And vacation is not only for fun, it’s also a form of education and preventative healthcare.
What a concept!
Now, because of the pandemic, most of us can’t just jump on a plane and fly away to some tropical destination. But there are plenty of other ways to unwind. Read or listen to a book. Discover new music. Do yoga. Meditate. Cook a meal together. Sleep in. Play a board game. Take up a new hobby.
By the way, I’m not saying you shouldn’t work. Work can be fun and fulfilling, but it is about finding the right balance between rushing and relaxing.
I always welcome December, because I know my work as a voice over slows down. I don’t panic. I don’t complain. I just build it into the rest of the year, and I relax. December is a month to recharge and reconnect. As much as I love my job, recording voice overs is just a means to an end. Things tend to get crazy when I lose sight of that end.
It hasn’t always been this way. A few years ago I thought I had to “prove myself” by doing as much work as I could fit into a day, a month, a year. Until one day, a rescue team found me on the floor of my basement recording studio, paralyzed, and barely breathing.
I had had a massive stroke.
Not taking a break, not slowing down, not stopping to smell the roses can have deadly consequences.
Now that I have pretty much fully recovered (brain cells don’t grow back, unfortunately), I live much more in the moment, and I have left the rat race that was keeping me up at night. And you know what?
I L O V E it!
Slowing down keeps me sane and keeps me safe.
It has been said that those who are close to death often look back, and express their regrets.
Literally no dying person ever said: “I wish I had spent more time at work.”
They do say: “I wish I had been there for the moments that mattered. For the times my spouse and my children needed me. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard, and had taken more time to enjoy life.”
Please believe me me: your worth is not in your work. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Take a break. For your sake, and for the sake of those who care about you.
Try living without a schedule for a few days. Forget social media. Be spontaneous. Stop feeling guilty because you’re not busy making money. Give yourself permission to pause.
Enjoy unplanned time with your immediate family, and with yourself.
I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a crazy year.
So, do something that feeds your soul.
And if that’s hard for you to do, you really need to work on that!
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice