Story last updated at 3/18/2009 - 8:54 pm
If you've ever worked on a holiday, you know it's not the best way to celebrate. I've been working a number of weekend days lately, and it's not always fun to sit in an office when everyone else is out skiing. But, I have to admit that the office is a lot more fun on a Sunday than on a Monday.
As I write this on Sunday, it's quiet - no phones ringing, no coworkers talking nearby. Call me crazy, but it almost feels like a day off. Not a day off from work, per se, but a day off from a usual workday. And by getting a reprieve from the distractions inherent in a typical weekday in the office, I find myself more productive. It's a break from the normal in that I'm able to focus easily on writing.
Students around the country are on spring break right now, and it's easy for those of us who aren't students to feel just a little bit envious.
What would you do if you had a week off right now? Or, what wouldn't you do?
I think there are two basic ways people usually look at vacations: either as a break from something, or a break for something. The break from something is usually the "escape" vacation: you escape to Hawaii because it's different from Alaska and gives you a break from work and a break from daily life. Or, your vacation might be a break for something - you go to Hawaii because you want to learn to surf, say, or see Hawaii - but you take the vacation to do something you can't do when you're in Juneau working.
Two ways of looking at the same vacation, you might say, but I think the subtle shift in prepositions - break from or break for - leads to vastly different breaks.
I'm reminded of a homily I heard a priest give during Lent when I was a teenager. We usually think about giving things up for Lent, he said, but it sometimes can be better to take something on instead. Want to be healthier? You could give up sweets, or you could take on jogging. Want to be a better person? You could give up swearing or you could take on a volunteer job at the soup kitchen.
In many religious traditions, times of fasting are also times of reverence and prayer. It's easy to look at these periods as a time when you give up something - eating - but what you take on is often equally, if not more, important.
If you don't get to stop working for a week during Spring Break, it's easy to just let the break pass by like any other.
But if you ask me, there's no time Southeast Alaskans need a break more than March. Even as the days lengthen, there's no sign of the snow disappearing and the temperatures aren't getting much over 40 degrees. We might not be cured of cabin fever until April or May.
So, what can we do if we can't go to Cancun? We might not be able to give up the weather, or the ice, or our work and family obligations. But, it might be a good time to take something on. It might even make life feel more like a vacation.
I've had to get up early on a few Saturdays recently for assignments or to pick up a friend at the airport. I've stayed up late recently for a bonfire, or to see a friend visiting town for a few days. These early mornings and late nights feel like bits of vacation because they're a break from routine.
This time of year, the sun rises around 7 a.m. and doesn't set until after 7 p.m. There's more time to squeeze little spring breaks every day. How about taking a daily hike (or run, or ski) to greet the rising sun or watch the setting sun?
Or, try cooking a new dish every evening this week. Wish you were in Mexico? Try mastering Mexican cuisine this week. Longing for the Mediterranean? Pretend you're living in that villa by the sea - what would you be eating? Make it here.
Longing for big city entertainment? Treat yourself to a movie, a play, a lecture, a concert or dinner and drinks out every night for a week. In Juneau at least, this is possible - and not necessarily too expensive.
We all deserve a spring break. Some of us just have to find a way to take one without leaving town. It might be more likely to be a break for something than a break from something, but I think that's often the best kind of break we can take.
Katie Spielberger may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.