Holidays are Different

Holidays are different this time around.

In college, when you return from a visit to see family over a holiday weekend, the stress of the time you've lost hits you like a sack of bricks the moment you step back on campus. Inevitably, no matter how much you love your family, some small part of you winds up hating the way you never get any work done while you're home.

It took me three years of college before I found a way to go home for a long weekend and still get something productive done. It was only in my final year of college that my mother and I learned to grade together, since we often both had assignments that could not wait to be finished during the week.

The reason for this clash is that our professors always assign projects to be due shortly after holiday breaks. This is good for them (it clears their schedule in the holiday period leading up to the due project/test) and bad for us (it means we usually return home burdened and stressed, seemingly weighed down by even more assigned work than usual). But it isn't their fault, the system simply is designed to encourage that kind of behaviour. Our university schedule is a result of our university culture, and our culture is not family-centric, and perhaps we shouldn't expect it to be.

After I graduated (Class of 2004) I spent 18 months on hiatus from my 'real life', first traveling, then tending bar, then traveling again. I tended bar for a restaurant called Gator's (trivia: dinner menu available here) between August 2004 and March 2005. I don't remember any of the holidays from that year because there is nothing unique about them. I worked the day before Thanksgiving and the day after. I worked the day before Christmas and New Years Eve. When you work 6 days a week every week the days blend together and a single day off doesn't have a profound effect on your memory.

And of course, in the restaurant business there are no take home assignments. There is no 'project deadline' that means you might be taking work with you over the break. So your holidays are shorter and less unique, but to me it didn't matter as much because my daily schedule was so much less stressful. I used to say that after University life, the restaurant job felt like being on vacation every second I wasn't at work.

This year marks my first holiday season working a white-collar (engineering) job. My schedule is different in that I got 4 days off, far more than I ever had when I worked at Gator's, and my lifestyle is different in that I didn't take any work with me over the holiday. There's no test I have to take on Monday morning, and on Tuesday I won't be turning in a 10 page paper or massive team project.

Therefore the holiday seems both more pleasant and more empty. After all those years of busting my ass (or at least stressing about how I should be busting my ass) to get something done while my family cavorted around me in its normal chaotic manner, the resultant calm during this holiday weekend has been almost eerie.

Holidays are different this time around.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


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