I set my first out-of-office autoresponder and didn’t work for 10 days

I can’t begin to explain how out of touch with reality I’ve been the past two weeks. I flew home to Iowa on the 20th, spent an entire week with my immediate family, drove twelve hours to Pittsburgh to visit my grandparents, and flew back to DC yesterday morning.

It was my first and only visit to Iowa in all of 2018. It was the first time I saw my dad in ten months, my mom in eight, and my brother and sister-in-law in six.

It was also the first time I set an out-of-office responder as a freelancer.

I had zero intentions of taking those ten days off work.

I packed an entire gallon-sized Ziploc bag bursting with receipts with every intention of  working on my taxes. I planned to write my first four articles of the year to start 2019 ahead. I thought I’d do all the shit I hadn’t had time to do the last two months of the year.

I didn’t do any of it.

And you know what the best part is? I didn’t dread coming “back to work.” By the time we drove to Pittsburgh as a family, I accepted I wouldn’t do an ounce of work until I arrived back in DC. Somehow, I was totally ok with that.

Two years ago, the final employer to hand me a W2 shut down between Christmas and New Years. Rather than enjoy my first and only days off at that job, I spent the entire time dreading going back. On the last day at my parents’ house, my dad just looked at me and said, “You’ve been miserable—this entire time.”

This year, I didn’t have those feelings of dread. At all.

You know when you have every intention of doing something productive, and that thing just doesn’t happen?

You plan to go to the gym, on a run, work on a Saturday, or wake up early to get a head start to the day; and you just…don’t? And you can’t explain why? That’s how I felt over my personal Christmas vacation. I had time to work; I just didn’t.

And all I can say for an explanation is this: Maybe I just fucking needed it.

2018 was a great year for me. After a frightening first year of freelancing, I felt like I established myself, figured out of my offering, and felt confident in the work I delivered. Business owners I never, ever thought would work with me requested my help. Seventy percent of my client conversations began with, “I just don’t trust anyone but you to do it,” a sentence I will never, ever get tired of hearing.

It was really fucking hard, some moments even brutal. And when you work really hard for something, you really need to carve out a break afterward.

One of the few (or only) drawbacks to hard work is how addicting momentum is, and how strongly we fear losing it.

When we work our asses off to reach a certain goal—then hit it—we worry that if we pause to catch our breath, all good habits, determination, and resilience we built will suddenly vanish. We set a new goal or threshold as soon as we write a checkmark through the last, wanting to draw the straightest line to it.

After hitting a PR, we worry one day off from the gym will reverse any gains; after losing ten pounds, we think eating one cookie will bring back poor eating habits; after hitting a sales goal, we worry one day off work will bring us straight back to our previous salary.

We think all the above, even though operating at maximum capacity without any break in sight is impossible. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

After a year I was genuinely proud of, I thought if I took a single vacation, I would lose all the progress I made over 2018.

Instead, I can’t tell you how good I feel. I’m not radiating stress like I was the last quarter of the year. The notes section of my phone keeps expanding with a list of ideas. And I feel really happy, and a little bit excited, about what comes next.

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For All the F Words
You have flaws. You f-up on a daily basis. And that should be ok.