Ten days of vacation a year. Oh to be French…not only do they have their warm, crusty baguettes and gooey cheese, they have forty days off a year in which they can spend eating them. I’d even settle being Canadian, what with their 26 days off of daily patronizing servitude. Ok, I take that back, let’s not get crazy. The only good thing that came from there is Canadian bacon. Speaking of…what do they call Canadian bacon in Canada? No, there’s no punchline, I’m actually asking.
But I digress. Back to the topic at hand. When I went to Italy nine months ago, it was if the world was ending pre-Rapture. I worked late every night until after nine pm for three weeks to make those 5 days off happen. Why is this? Am I Chief Justice of the United States? Not last time I checked. But I suffer from the Burke work ethic – and even though I found no one as else was holding me as accountable as I was holding myself, I still had to get it all done. I’m the gal you count on – deadlines are a high, an open-ended calendar my poison.
But Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” made me want to head to JFK with my passport and not much else. The message of the movie was that the grass is always greener, and living in the present is the most important thing. The past is past, the future but a plan unfulfilled and unimportant. While a young Parisian might find it incredibly romantic to be living alone in New York City, it is territory I’ve discovered. It’s like a trip you’ve already experienced, or a roller coaster you’ve already ridden.
Last year, when I was about to graduate from a grueling graduate program, my sister suggested that I “take a year off! Go travel the world! I’d much rather hire someone who had a great life experience than one who was sitting in a cubicle all day!” But, not surprisingly, she wasn’t going to fund Eileen’s World Tour…and here I am, sitting in the same swirly chair, literally and figuratively, that I was last July after receiving my very expensive diploma. Yes, I wanted a good life story, too – but really, does the future guy interviewing me who spends half of his ten vacation days visiting his in-laws in Florida want to hear about my excursions trekking through Australia? Probably not.
I love feeling needed and I love feeling necessary, which always makes it hard to pick up and go. But we all act at the level we know…and when we know better, we do better. So now I realize I know better – I truly understand the fact that life is short, and you never hear people on their deathbeds expressing the desire to have worked more. No, instead they wish to have seen the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night. To have heard the surfers call to each other in the warm Australian waters. To have sleuthed wheat beers on tap in Oregon. To have trekked Patagonia, and just not shopped in the store. To have climbed a structure seen only in photos. To walk down a winding road where centuries-old cobblestone make heels treacherous.
No longer will the pictures of exotic places posted in my cubicle suffice. God help the person interviewing me in a few years – they’re going to be green with envy.