September 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
Labor Day weekend is just around the corner, marking the last time it’s acceptable to wear white, the last holiday until Halloween, and the beginning of crisp fall days (or mildly warm days, as they are in Texas). As the season closes, I find myself reflecting on the past few months.
Back in June, a friendly acquaintance stopped to ask, “What are you up to these days?”
I remember fumbling for an answer, something that sounded more impressive than the truth. I wanted to lie. I wanted to tell her that I was up to great things, saving the world and all that. Instead, I decided to be honest (mostly because I didn’t have the energy to come up with a creative-yet-believable lie).
“I’m taking the summer off,” I said. “Resting. Relaxing.”
She stared at me, and I was sure she thought I was your typical-lazy-millennial-bum.
“It’s kind of hard,” I admitted, partly because it was true and partly because I felt self-conscious. “I’m not sure I’m allowed to take time off.”
After all, shouldn’t I be like the rest of my peers, getting jump-started on a career or heading to graduate school or, at the very least, trying to find something to do. I waited for her to call me a bum.
Instead, she nodded knowingly.
“If that’s how you feel, taking time off sounds exactly like what you should do.”
I stared at her, mouth slightly agape, letting the wisdom of her words soak into my skin.
I’d never thought of rest like that. In reality, I was taking time off out of necessity: there was no way I could keep up the demanding schedule I’d maintained since college, working and writing and networking and moving every year and, sometimes, every few months.
All of a sudden, I felt another reason to rest: if you can’t relax, if you can’t let yourself simply be, if you have to be busy all the time, working toward something all the time, then you need to stop. You need to let yourself be okay with who you are, a worthwhile individual, even when you have nothing to show for it, even when you can’t answer the simple question, “What do you do?”
I’m on the other side of summer now. I’ve gone through the agonizing first few weeks of questioning: what am I doing with my life?! I can’t sleep in or go to the arboretum or buy myself a latte! I don’t even have a steady paycheck!!!
Now, I’m on the other side of weeks of rest, of days filled with doing whatever, of long summer hours at the beach, of afternoons in the park, of mornings lazily reading the newspaper in cozy coffee shops. Now, I feel ready to begin working again, not out of an anxious need to answer that pestering question, “What are you up to these days?” but out of a place of equanimity, a place I wouldn’t be in without the long summer of rest, a healthy, firm rock from which to leap.