An Ode to the Magic of Time Off

January 10, 2019 6:36 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Versión en español.

More Vacation, Please!

Last semester was one of the busiest of my career, and it ended with me planning a graduate course on postmodernism on the night of December 23. I sat in my mother-in-law’s second living room, working to the sound of laughter warmly seeping through the door as I had during every one of our family visits to Ohio that fall. I suddenly saw a future where these moments of detachment from those dearest to me kept growing alongside the piles of work that were no doubt to come. While the vision didn’t do much for my concentration, it reminded me that I’ve always been someone who cherishes and fights for her time off. What happened to that person last fall?

I guess the culture I live in finally managed to make its mark. I was certainly not alone as I sat in that darkened room hunched over my computer. In 2015, the US Department of Labor reported that the average American worker takes only eight days off a year. According to CNN, the US is one of only six countries that don’t have mandatory time off for employees. And yet, the countries that have the most mandated time off, primarily in Western Europe, seem to have fewer issues with productivity. Moreover, they are healthier. Perhaps because American workers take so little time off, American scholars have spent decades researching the devastating results of overwork. One of the most famous of these studies is the 1992 Framingham Study, which after two decades of following its subjects found that men who don’t take vacation time are 30% more likely to have heart attacks. For women, the number is 50%. The studies that followed this one have found a myriad of health and happiness issues related to having no time off. And for what?

After all, overwork doesn’t make us any more productive, and we’re certainly not any happier. A 2015 study published in the Harvard Business Review found that those who take more vacation time are more productive when they are at work. I certainly am unstoppable every time I return from a holiday. And happily I did come to my senses. After finishing the plans for my postmodernism course sometime at 1am that night, I shut down my computer for nine days and enjoyed my time off with family and friends. That’s one more day than the average American takes all year, and I plan to spend many more free moments like it in 2019. I hope you join me.

The Weeping Season was Awarded a New Grant

We received the great news that we have been awarded a $6,000 Humanities and Arts Research Program Grant for The Weeping Season. With this award, our editor Cristina Carrasco and I will continue our work on the film’s rough draft, which is beginning to show some inkling of what we think will be the actual film’s haunting look, mood, and spirit. We couldn’t be happier after all this time to begin to see the story finally taking shape on the screen.

Unearthed Photo of the Month

If there’s someone who understood the value of vacations, it was my father. We had a magic carpet (which was, in fact, only the parquet floor of my mom’s living room) where we’d sit, close our eyes, and tell each other about the places—real and imagined—we were flying over. While I drew mostly from the unicorns and blue forests that grew in my imagination, Dad had been seemingly everywhere and he shared visual morsels of the places that had transfixed him. I can’t remember if he talked about the 45-day honeymoon he took with my mom across Europe, which he decided they’d pay for with credit cards that then took a decade to pay off. Whether we visited those places on our magic carpet or not, the honeymoon played a big role in my imagination because growing up with a fiscally responsible mother, it was hard to fathom taking such a trip and not worrying about how you’d pay for it. It wasn’t until I started scanning our photo albums for The Weeping Season that I took a closer look at this image and saw how my mom had captured her new husband seemingly walking in midair somewhere in Germany or Austria. His flight is minor and attached, but it’s still a flight—an illusion that he could break free for an instant, that love and money and romance would last forever. And in this reddish, uncanny image, they do.

My Video Essay on Working with the Press

As part of my work on the Strategic Action Task Force for the Conference on College Composition and Communication, I worked on a short video essay titled “Working with the Press: A Guide for Academics,” which you can now watch alongside other excellent resources for academics seeking to expand their activist profile.

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This post was written by Alexandra Hidalgo

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