Out of Office

I was in Kruger National Park sneaking up on a cheetah when my radio beeped loudly and I lost the moment. It wasn’t the first time I’d ignored my boss on that trip, though in retrospect, talking to her would have been preferable to listening to my ex complain about the early hour for elephant watching. Mind, she ranked right up there with my number one worst boss who, on my first day at work in my very first real job, asked me to crutch seven blocks and then berated me not only for being too slow but for having broken my ankle in the first place.


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At the time of the cheetah sighting I was on vacation and remained connected to civilization and the Embassy (we’re talking post-9/11, mid-Anthrax) by radio as required by the friendly neighborhood security officer. I was on vacation. I wasn’t working. I was vacationing.

I learned quickly that in the Foreign Service you need to be in between somewheres to not be working. Otherwise, the emails are piling up, the deadlines are shorter, the bosses shriller. Regardless, I placed a priority on work-life balance and took the shrillness and heat that came with it. There was heat, my friends. Some people don’t understand the meaning of the word vacation.

I am also very firmly in the don’t-check-your-email camp. It’s hard to avoid working when it’s so so easy to hit the mail icon on your phone. I don’t take calls or check my voicemail ever, much to my mother’s (and telemarketers) dismay. It’s vacation. Right? Turn it off and mentally rejuvenate.

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But it turns out that the work that piles up when you’re away starts to be more stressful than actually doing it. And when your mother calls and says, “By the way, we’re going out of town the week you needed us to watch RR AND we need you to dog sit Duncan*. Pity it’s when you planned your vacation.” and your wife says, “Oh but look! We can move it to the following week (profanity about your mother redacted).” then you’ll say, “Fair enough.”, completely forgetting that you are tied to the academic year and everyone else took their vacations LAST week and everything, everything, is happening the week you’ll be gone.

And you are trying very hard to get a promotion by being very awesome and it’s hard to be awesome when you aren’t actually there.

And so here I am. Feeling relieved that I’ll be working, at least a little, while I’m on vacation. I won’t be awesome, but I won’t be feeling overwhelmed when I get back. I think I’ve picked the lesser of the two evils. I hope so.

 

*Upon looking for a link to give you so that you could reacquaint yourselves with Duncan, I realized that I had not told you nearly enough about how overwhelming he is. Fortunately, my wife captured it here, here, and here. Since we’re dog sitting this week, I was up at the obscene hour of 6am to keep him from barking himself crazy. I sat in the recliner and watched Face Off. Don’t judge.

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