vacation stamp bitmoji

During my institution’s “spring break” we are still expected to be in the office working, preferably from 8:00-4:30. I decided that this was not the life for me  in mid-February and I promptly took the entire week off because I HAVE vacation time and I SHOULD use every single day I am contractually granted.

Again, for those in the back: I promptly took the entire week off because I HAVE vacation time and I SHOULD use every single day I am contractually granted.

I have written about Burnout before and like I have said before it is a “scary” word in student affairs. “Don’t get burnt out” and “Be sure to self-care” are phrases uttered in some fashion constantly by supervisors everywhere (myself included). What happens after we give our warnings? We wait until the symptoms of burnout present themselves again before offering the same eerie warning. When do we, as supervisors or as professionals, actively work with our peers and supervisees to assist in the creation of these habits before they are necessary?

I will be the first to admit that I absolutely hate the idea of using my vacation days. I continue to pretend that I will save them all of for this giant, great adventure during the summer. What else could be a factor here? Conditional response to limited breaks due to years of compulsory and then a couple of years of higher education: check. Structural (field-wide) discouragement of separating yourself from work during any time other than a break: check. Residence Life being a functional area where entry-level staff are expected to be present nearly 24/7: check. I am conditioned to think saving my days and using them during the summer is the most “appropriate” way to use my time off. The most appropriate time for me to use my time away is when I need or want it.

(Alt Text: Courtney Cambell @courtneyekeeler :  am I alone in being desensitized to the buzzphrase of “self-care” in SA? Since when is actually taking my lunch hour “self-care”?)

 I saw the preceding Tweet the other day… My favorite line from it is “Since when is actually taking my lunch hour ‘self-care’?” I immediately saved it so that I could come back and share it with fellow professionals because I think it may strike a chord with many. For me, many of my lunch breaks last less than 30 and too often are less than 15 minutes in duration. Self-care in student affairs has become the utilization of normal pieces of employment instead of work. This behavior becomes normalized early on in a professional’s career, which probably contributes to high burnout rates. We have become so desensitized that a job where you can have a full hour lunch and regularly leave at the end of the day is like winning the World Cup.

I took a vacation and I liked it. I think I’ll take another one. I will take my full hour of lunch or respite even if most of it is a stroll around the campus munching on a sandwich. These are relatively small things, but if many new professionals rebel against infringement of these small things we may see the day when working through lunch four days of the week is no longer an expectation.