As I type this, I’m just a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean on a writing retreat. I planned this quick trip to let my mind rest, and more importantly wander. I’m hoping this is a preventative for the inevitable burnout that follows writing almost 2 million words in 10 months without a book to show for it.
This morning, I stopped at the post office before breakfast to mail a few things that weren’t going to fit in my suitcase home. Read: I bought more shoes than I could wear or pack without having to check a bag. As I pulled up to the building, I didn’t have much hope. The coffee shop this post office shared a parking lot with had a sign out front. “Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.” The city kid in me started to grumble. “What kind of place doesn’t have coffee on Tuesdays and Wednesdays?” I thought.
I’ve seen closets more significant than this post office. There was a sign made of cardboard taped to on an open door: “Window hours 10:30 to 4.” In small towns, they set their hours. With no coffee around, I understand.
As I turned around to leave, a man pulled up to unload packages. “Sorry, it’s closed,” he said. “I can’t believe a post office and coffee shop are closed on a Tuesday morning!” He laughed. “Well, the whole point of a vacation is to relax. Go. Relax!”
You could tell the guy was genuinely happy to be at work. I smiled despite my lack of caffeine.
About 16 miles away, I stopped in a beach town for breakfast. But first, another post office. One that was open this time. But this was different. I could feel a certain sadness as I walked into the dark, warm room. A young woman about my age peeked around the corner as the door dinged to let her know I was there. She stared, waiting for me to speak first.
No small talk. No joy. No pleasantries. I could tell she was pissed even to have to speak to me. We have all been there. You’re annoyed to see another human, let alone drag yourself through the door every day. After a while, you start to wear it on your face like she was. Even with the ocean crashing a few blocks away, no poker face can hide those feelings.
That’s the thing about work. Work has power over us. No matter how beautiful the scenery or bountiful the perks, it can consume us and overpower our minds. It can steal our identity. Confuse us about our worth. Take us from rock bottom to extreme highs, and back, in a matter of seconds.
And that is precisely why it’s so important to retreat from work every once in a while. Even if you love it, you have to make space to approach its problems from another angle. Sometimes answers come from rest, not persistence.
So remember, when you’re frustrated about work that it’s real. That work is powerful, and that you might need to wander.
Don’t ever forget to rest -