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Davis, California

Friday, February 23, 2024

Column: Vacation days

During Memorial Day weekend, a large part of the student body takes a vacation from their usual lives and attempts to live a weekend in the life of a pirate, daring their bodies to fight off scurvy as they subsist off a combination of booze, burgers and sunlight. Since my attempt at surviving HB2K10 was barely a success and required a week-long coma to sleep off the hangover, I made other plans. I decided to take a vacation of my own and go back to my hometown.

Merriam and her pal Webster define vacation as “a respite or a time of respite from something.” This dynamic duo defines respite as “an interval of rest or relief.” By these definitions, the weekend I had was a far cry from a vacation. And I’m sure our Aggie pirates feel the same.

These past few days were packed with so many activities it was like my life’s bedroom had just been converted to bunk beds. There were family dinners, family lunches, family birthday parties, parties with friends, lunches with friends, barbecues with family friends, trips to bars, late-night talks, midday talks, afternoon talks and even a night of babysitting and movies. Any moment I had to myself was spent sleeping or writing this. Did the weekend even qualify as a vacation?

I brought this up to a friend of mine on the last day of my “vacation” and he made a good point. These are the types of vacations people are expected to take. We take vacations to go rock climbing, backpacking and camping, to see landmarks, monuments and museums. Our vacations aren’t intervals of rest or relief; we take vacations to go do something we don’t usually do.

In a way these are vacations are “a time of respite from something,” and that something is our normal, everyday life. We get tired of our jobs, school, people, or just feel like we need to get away for a while, need a change in environment. That’s perfectly natural. Repeatedly doing the same thing every day, week after week, can make us feel like zombies or robots with lives predetermined by our programming. A vacation can feel like the only way to keep our sanity.

But why do we feel the need to fill our vacation days with so many plans that make us just as tired, if not more tired, than we were before? Where is the rest and relief?

Longtime readers may remember that way back in last week’s column I chided people for “doing nothing,” imploring them to get out there and live their lives. Short-time readers may remember that today’s column seems to be about people doing too much and not doing “nothing” enough. Both types of readers may think there’s a contradiction here. But the long and short of it is, I don’t think so.

Last week I said we live our lives through a prism of “no regrets,” that this idea can prevent people from taking action for fear of regretting it later. But just as a prism refracts light into different colors, this idea can also elicit different reactions from different people. Some people interpret “no regrets” to mean “don’t waste your time” — they think life is short and the world is huge so they use every opportunity to experience both. It’s a wonderful idea, but it still has its faults.

To start, life is not short, it’s the longest thing we’ll ever do. But it can feel short if we never take the time to appreciate it, to stop and smell the roses, as people like to say. And it’s hard to smell the roses when we’re skydiving in between our trips to Mount Rushmore and the six cities that claim to house The World’s Largest Frying Pan. At some point, a life spent circling the globe can be an epic of time wasted, as well.

Maybe I’m just exhausted from my busy weekend and I’m venting because I wish I had spent more time lying around than playing around. But after taking my own advice and doing the opposite of nothing for a weekend, I learned something. Sometimes we need to do nothing; it gives us time to think, reflect and appreciate the things we have done. The whole time, one thought refused to leave my tired mind: God, I need a vacation.

For the next few days, NOLAN SHELDON will be vacationing at nosheldon@ucdavis.edu.

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