Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Two Weeks

When I graduated from college in 1998 and went into the real world (which, unfortunately, wasn't anything like the movie Reality Bites...I say unfortunately since I really like angst), I was thrust into a certain loss of freedom Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm. After having a relatively flexible school schedule for years, this new regimen was hard to adjust to. I mean, this is what I was coming from. Let's pick a sample Tuesday from when I was in college:

9am wake up
10-11am class
11-12 class
12-3pm video games
3-5pm hang out with friends or nap
5-5:30 dinner
5:30-8:00 video games, computer, TV
8pm - 11pm work, includes study time
11pm-2am hang out with boyfriend
2am-3am study/computer
3am-9am sleep

And then going to this:

6am wake up
7am leave house, commute
8am - 5pm work
5-6pm commute
6-7pm wind down/dinner
OMG I'm tired, too tired to play video games so I stare at Wheel of Fortune with a glazed over look
8pm fall asleep

It wasn't that work was hard. It's just that I wasn't used to spending 9 consecutive hours doing ANYthing, and it was daunting to figure out how to fit in my normal amount of goofing off into my day. I suppose it doesn't help that when you're in an entry level job, you don't get to dictate how you arrange your time, so you're at the mercy of everyone else--who love to dump work onto the newbie.

The schedule adjustment is rough. Even rougher is that new employees rarely get much, if any, vacation time. So not only are you adjusting to a way different schedule, it also never stops repeating. No vacation days for you! 

I had a bit of wanderlust in me when I got out of school. I switched jobs frequently--not just jobs, but careers. I was in HR, then accounting, then customer service, then databases/IT, then research. When you career hop like that, you really never accumulate much in the way of vacation. So by the time of our wedding and honeymoon, I was pleased to have earned 5 whole vacation days, which I used for our honeymoon. After 2 years of steady work, I had that one week off and that was it. Not that I'm complaining; it's just what it was.

When I started working at my current employer in late 2000, I was excited to find out that they were closed for a week in December and TWO WEEKS in July. And you still got paid for those 3 weeks. AND you got 4 more weeks off that you could take off whenever you wanted. The Christmas week of 2000 I don't remember. We probably had the in-laws staying with us or were busy with other things.

What I do remember is having TWO WEEKS off in July of 2001. It was beyond awesome. Waking up whenever I wanted, going to sleep whenever I wanted (I seem to recall watching Nick at Night until 3am), napping, reading, walking, exercising, hanging out with friends. It was a vacation that I so very much wanted and needed. I still remember my joy at having the time and not wanting to waste a second of it. Well, you might think I wasted it by watching Nick at Night. But I don't think I did. I relished the freedom of it, but, unlike college, I realized that it would come to a jarring end and back to work I would go.

I am so looking forward to our week off in July. It has been shortened over the years to one week off in July. That's okay because the other week we used to have you can now use whenever you want. Despite being able to use my vacation time whenever I want, I see the mandatory vacations more like real vacations. When the office shuts down for the mandatory vacation, e-mail stops, calls stop. It's like you left work on Friday and those 9 days until you show up again didn't even happen work-wise. As opposed to the other vacation when the e-mail just stacks starting the hour you leave. 


Jesse Farnham said...

Man, it must have been nice to have had such an easy college experience. That being said, I guess I'm happy that I ended up going to a place that challenged me, since without doing that, I probably wouldn't have ended up where I am now.

Losing my freedom of schedule is the thing I fear most about starting work in the fall. In fact, schedule freedom / work life balance / time off is one of the main reasons I always planned to go into a government or government-contracting job like my dad (along with my personal belief in the importance of government). Previously, I told myself that even if I could make more money in industry, it wasn't worth the longer hours, stricter schedule, and increased stress. Now here I am, going in that direction because I was given an offer that was too good to refuse. I'm definitely apprehensive about it.

That being said, I know I probably have it better than most people who are just started out, since I start out with 3 weeks of time off (although I can't use any of it during the first three months). And the hours, while I expect them to be longer than I'd prefer, should at least be tied vaguely to the trading day in the US. One other good sign is that when I asked my team about the most stressful problem they've had, they couldn't think of one. So hopefully I'll survive this.

B said...

I'm sure you'll do fine since you're used to a more rigorous schedule. :)