Vacations are dumb.
I’m heading to Sapporo for a few days with some other guy-jin and girl-jin. The purpose of the trip is the famous “Snow Festival”. I’ve heard the illumination (Japanese word for public lighting. What the heck do we say in English, again?) is nice and that there will be a bunch of buildings and whatnot made of snow and ice. I’m a fan of snow and ice and bitter hypothermia-inducing cold, so that should be nice.
The truth is, the part I’m most looking forward to is the boat ride to Hokkaido. I don’t know why. It’s a boat? That’s cool, I suppose. It’s an overnight ride, which puts it somewhere between an overnight bus and a cruise ship. I really have no idea. Whatever the case, the company will be good, so it doesn’t matter if my bed is nothing more than a cold square on the floor with my own jacket to keep me warm.
Here’s hoping for the best.
Vacations Are Dumb
On the topic of vacations, I’m not a huge fan. They throw off my groove. Some people want more vacation time at their job, but not me. I’m more for making my workplace the best it can be. I want to enjoy my job so much that a vacation is more of a hassle than anything else.
Also, hating vacations means I’ll probably enjoy them. Low expectations. It’s a philosophy.
The biggest problem with vacations is they dare to interrupt my daily life. “But Jōchō! Isn’t that the point of a vacation? Vary up your life! Live a little!” Hey, voice that was hopefully said slightly differently than the inner voice you use to read these posts, be quiet. Truth is, I feel my normal life has a great deal of variation. Navigating an unfamiliar culture means every day is an action-packed thrill-ride of social faux-pas rocky cliffs and misunderstanding-the-situation icebergs. Once this sea becomes calmer, the allure of vacation may in fact rear its beautiful head.
It’s like this: Imagine you’re training for a marathon. Right now you can’t run more than a mile without feeling out-of-breath. It’s tough, but fun. After a month, you can run two miles like it’s nobody’s business. Your training has been good, but you’ve still got another bunch of miles to go. You’re still having fun, though, feeling the progress. That’s me right now. Friends tell me to take a vacation because it’s some relaxation I supposedly deserve. But while I’m definitely tired, I’m nonetheless enjoying the training. The relaxation will only set me back.
Long story short: I like my daily life. Vacation feels un-needed. I’ve got my daily life down to a decent self-improvement machine. It’s so good that vacation threatens to make my normal life worse.
Every day, I study. Every day, things become ever-so clearer. I’ll learn a couple new words. I’ll see some custom in action for the umpteenth time, further cementing it in my unconsciousness. I’ll (theoretically) improve my relationships with my co-workers. More concretely, I get up automatically a few minutes before my 6:45 am alarm clock, feel accustomed to the “toll” a 8-10 hour workday takes, check up on a few websites like they were some medicine that repels a life-threatening disease, and play a video game and read a book before heading to sleep.
Going on vacation means that none of those things are reinforced. Even a tiny change of location puts my sleep out of whack. Taking a break around noon for a two hour lunch party makes me yearn for it back at school. Being out with nighttime obligations threatens “study” time.
Small changes destroy habits. And it can take weeks and months to rebuild them.
Where I’m Wrong
Honestly, I think I’m just fishing for excuses to do something out of my comfort zone. Money is the most common excuse, as good as it is. This study time debacle is a well-crafted excuse as well.
I’m going to Sapporo and I’ll enjoy it—I’m pretty positive of that. I’m bring my 3DS to study with, and while I’ll probably study less than I would normally, I take solace in knowing that study is actually coming from new sources for a change. New words from unfamiliar locales. New understandings that come from hanging out with new people. New perspectives that only come from time away.
It’s a common bit of relationship advice that “time apart helps foster ties”, or more poetically, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. It extends to work relationships as well. I notice that there’s a renewed tie between me and coworkers / students if I haven’t been to a particular school in a longer-than-normal while.
On the language front, your brain sometimes needs a little time off to process information. I’ve heard a language learner talk about a week they spent resting that ironically improved their language ability. When the brain is overworked, it can’t function as well.
Not to mention that too much of the same often results in stagnation. In teaching, it’s recommended that activities be no longer than 20 minutes, and that if longer times are required, that the focus is changed in the middle. People get bored. Maybe you’re not feeling bored—I’m certainly not bored with the day-to-day—but perhaps your mind is secretly bored. Your mind needs a change.
One thing that’s nice about living in Japan is that every vacation is practice, of some sort. Navigating Japan doesn’t end with my village—the country extends quite a distance. Even going outside of Japan can help put the culture of Japan in perspective.
What I’m trying to say is, I gotta start looking at vacations differently. I can justify anything if I call it “study”. But I can’t call it that until I can identify which aspect of myself will improve as a result. Vacations could turn out to be an amazing study opportunity if I look at them right.
When it comes to habits, I’ll just have to work during those initial days when I return to build my habits back up. It’s a small price to pay for all the new learning that’ll come in the interim period.
A New Look
Maybe this all sounds weird? “You’re trying to justify vacation? That doesn’t require effort.” But it does if you’re like me—some freakish human who attached a negative connotation on such a positive word. I bet you have some negative word that’s positive in my book.
No matter what it is, everything has good and bad points. Focus on the good. Amplify those traits. Do your best to give hated concepts positive connotation.
But use your brain, too. “Murder your family” doesn’t need to have a positive connotation. It’s best that one remains in the realm of the negative.
P.S. If it wasn’t obvious, I’ll be away for the next couple of days. New posts will resume on the 11th, Japan time.