Taking a break is an art and a learned habit, and it’s been one of the best parts of getting older. Sure, people say that high school or college or whatever years are the best — nostalgia for youth and and a time with fewer responsibilities — but I completely disagree. That thing about brains not being fully developed until the mid-20s? So true. I love feeling calmer and more confident and am much happier at 35 than I was at 25. Let’s not even talk about being 15!
One of my biggest lifelong challenges has been learning to take time for myself and to step away from work without guilt. The first year I co-directed the NESCBWI conference, I went to my day job the Monday after the 3-day event that I’d been working on for a year. The two weren’t related, after all. My job wasn’t stopping because this event was wrapping up, so I went on as if the weekend had been normal. Of course that day was extremely difficult, not only because I was tired and coming down from an event for a few hundred people, but because of the stark context switch, and I crashed by the end of it.
I learned. The following year, I took the post-conference Monday off and booked a massage and spent the day letting go of all of the work from the previous year and centering myself before returning to regular life. When my husband planned his own conference later that year, I did one better — I booked a week-long vacation after his event, and we did nothing but eat, sit by a fire, read, play Scrabble, and go to the spa.
As I slowly realized, these breaks were much more than “vacation” or “time off.” They marked endings and provided closure on one chapter before continuing on to the next. The transition time relieved the hectic frenzy of normal life so there was time to breathe a few times before charging on.
Now I’m beginning to look ahead to the busy times and preemptively schedule breaks. Andrew has a tough fall of field tests for his research. I decided to push through a whole novel revision to match his calendar so we’d be immersed in work at the same time. Tomorrow we’re off to London for a few days to catch up with friends, see some shows, and re-center before the next round hits. My manuscript is with readers, so I’m taking this time off from my novel so I can come back refreshed and ready to work once again. I’m looking forward to both the break and the return.