The Vacation Was Too Short

When I picked up some pizza the other day, one of the waitresses had just come back from vacation. “How was it?” a fellow waiter asked. “Too short, like always,” she replied.

The vacation was too short. If every employee received a dollar every time another employee said this phrase, ironically, no one would have to work at all. It is the German post-holiday response, and though it will at times be uttered playfully, it almost always contains a kernel of a sad truth: Most of us don’t like their jobs enough to look forward to going back to them.

Forget loving your job. That’s a unicorn at the end of a rainbow. But shouldn’t we at least enjoy our work enough to not want to actively avoid showing up for it?

I’d love to run a study that lets people extend their vacation ad infinitum. If you could forever tack on another week at the beach, playing golf, or hiking through the mountains, would you ever stop? I think most people would never come back to their job at all. They’d simply find other things to do with their time. They wouldn’t just laze around, but they’d choose activities very distinct from their current job.

“If you need to take a vacation, never come back,” Joel Salatin said. But quit your job just because the vacation wasn’t long enough? That’s not feasible, is it? You can, however, watch out for it. “The vacation was too short.” The phrase is a great indicator of your relationship with work, and if you keep finding you do not want to return to the office (be it physically or digitally), you might want to consider pushing for a change.

How long is long enough? What’s a reasonable vacation? Well, however long it takes for you to feel excited to get back to work! And if that’s never the case, then it most likely means you’re working on the wrong thing to begin with.

As one of those rare unicorns who absolutely love their job, I can get antsy quite fast. Three days, four days, five days, and I’ll surely have come up with some new idea I want to tackle. That’s the other end of the spectrum. The line past which we become workaholics. Most people, however, will never get there, and the ones who do so because they are anxious about work rather than excited by it have yet another set of problems entirely.

Plus, it is easier to contain your excitement, to patiently wait a few more days, than it is to hide your misery and disappointment. The former will shine nearly as brightly when you do get back to work; the latter will slowly poison every minute of every day.

I know the world isn’t perfect. We can’t all be figure skaters and painters. But it is possible to find joy in whatever you do, even while you wait for something better to roll around. Be mindful of “too short” vacations. Unlike your holidays which never seem to be enough, their effect will one day add up.