Work hard to leave behind

By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers

I don’t get a real vacation this summer because I don’t have a real job … yet. But when I did have one, I remember how hard it was to get away from work completely.

I always remember what it was like going back to work on Monday morning, in bad need of a vacation from my vacation. My vacation was usually getting away for a few days and then trying to get things checked off of my to-do list, which I couldn’t get done during a normal work week.

Being a graduate student, even when I did get a bit of a vacation this year, like during spring break and a few days after the spring semester, before I began my summer job, it wasn’t a vacation per se. There was massive catch-up to do, as in housecleaning, paying bills and doctors appointments and other business, which I had put off until then.

More and more Americans are taking work with them on vacation, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press and Ipsos. Typical luggage now includes suitcases, sunblock, camera, and a laptop. Yes, a laptop. Even when I went away on a Spanish immersion program with Eastern New Mexico University in Yucatan, Mexico, a few summers ago, I had a laptop in tow. I used the laptop to write several of my weekly columns, because I didn’t want to miss one, and I haven’t missed a single one since I started writing this column four years ago this week.

With cell phones, it’s even harder to get completely away from it all. When I worked for the Abilene Reporter-News in Abilene, Texas, in 2002, I remember calling several times while I was on vacation to check my voice mails and I also remember checking my e-mail.

I have to admit, though, that when I had a major surgery in 2002 and wanted to continue writing my columns during the four weeks that I was out of work, my editor did not let me. She had undergone a similar operation and told me that she had defied her doctor’s orders and she worked while she was supposed to be at home recovering. Although she wasn’t at work, she was working on stories on a computer. And when she went to see her doctor, he could tell that she had been working. She told me that my recovery would go much better if I did not have any type of stress-related work, no matter how minor. Yes, writing a column can be stressful. And so that was one time when I actually did not work, but then again, it was not really a vacation per se.

About one in five people in the AP survey said they do some kind of work while on vacation and about the same amount of people checked office messages or called in to see how things were going. Moreover, twice as many people checked their e-mail while 50 percent kept up with other personal messages like voice mail. According to the poll, some people reported that it would have been even more stressful for them if they hadn’t checked in to work once in a while, while they were away.

Perhaps it’s all about a human need to feel needed. That’s what I say.