I’m taking a vacation. A small one. But it’s happening. I took some days off of work because the deluge of news has been getting to me lately, piling up and up with nowhere for my stress to go. My co-workers asked me where I was going on my days off. “Absolutely nowhere,” I replied. They all looked at me with incredulity, as many of them have been galivanting on their own adventures over the past month. “Go somewhere!” they all chanted. I stopped and thought, Wait, why *am* I not going anywhere? What is this pervasive feeling that tells me I’m required stay put? It’s not like I’m broke, I can afford to treat myself like this once in a while. So what feels so wrong about taking time off to explore some new environments? Am I stuck in a pandemic-era mindset where I feel I’m not ‘allowed’ to go out, even if I wanted to? Not everyone stayed inside, you know. It blows my mind knowing people were dating amid the lockdown. I though we all decided to go on strike, but turns out I was in a lane of my own on that one.

Either way, I bought my ticket and am jetting off this weekend. It never really bothered me to take a trip on my own. I’ve taken many a solocation in my time. Punta Cana, Kihei, Hawaii, Galveston, Texas, Saugerties, New York. All their own unique experiences, spending it with the person I’m guaranteed to spend the rest of my life with. Only children like me are used to spending time alone with themselves. That was never the problem. Lately, something in me knows these solo ventures aren’t necessarily appealing anymore. At least not right now. They just feel unneeded. That’s why I felt more comfortable just staycationing when I’d take time off work. What’s the point of traveling when you’ve got no one to go with? Of course I’ve been plenty places with my girlfriends; girls trips to Maine, Vegas, Disney Land, a castle in upstate New York. But when no one else is around to play, why pay to do exactly what I’m already doing, just somewhere else?

Well, that’s not happening this time. Now I’m actually going to meet with friends when I get there. Yes I’m physically traveling by myself, but I won’t have to fend for myself once I’ve arrived. Plans are being made, and I’m a part of them. It’s a good feeling. I’m looking forward to it.

And it took a lot of convincing myself that I might actually deserve it.

It’s been drilled into my head since I was a kid that having work is the most important thing in life. Having a job means having a consistent paycheck, which means money in your pocket to fund your life. My job affords me to take vacations like this when I’m able to do so. Maybe it’ll happen more frequently once I get the hang of socializing with new people again. Either way, there’s a sort of loyalty I want to uphold to the entity that is paying me for my talent. It’s nothing my employer drew up in document format. I didn’t sign away my soul in a blood pact. It’s part of my moral code to be true to the people who are putting money in your pocket, helping fund your life for as long as you’re making the agreement. Eventually I’d like that person to be me, but my thirty-five years have led me to this decade-long relationship, and no reason to leave that all behind just yet.

With the news how it is and my job being to literally produce a show that reports it, I feel like I’m doing a disservice by not sticking around and being ‘in the know.’ It puts me in the middle of a very strange push-and-pull dynamic. I need to know what’s going on, even if it drives me crazy, because I’m being paid to tell you what’s going on. I’m not trying to sound like a snotty journalism person. It just helps me and my program succeed if I’m aware of what’s coming in and out of The Beltway. I don’t have the luxury of turning off the news when I grow weary, when every weekday I must present to you, the viewer, a snapshot of what happened in the world that day. I get so immersed and desperate for information that I forego learning about what’s going on in my own little world, where I do things like explore the country and hang out with friends. That stuff is important, too. Sometimes more important than everything else going on. I have to find the split between my life and real life. And make sure I never forget how to jump back in to either one of them when it’s needed to do so.

I’ve kept a lid on myself over the past eighteen months. Most of it was a begrudgingly welcomed burden. The sting of my latest disappointment had far-reaching consequences in and out of my very core, and being stuck inside during a global pandemic was no better time to be forced to face that. It involved a lot of beating down only to build myself back up. And part of that is remembering what it’s like to treat myself nice. To not forget there’s things I like to do sometimes too. And do them. Just for me.

Occasionally I’ll be popping my head outside, asking friends on the patio if they need anything. A refill of your beer, a snack, anything you normally enjoy while in vacation-mode. I’ll be back and ready to party with the best of ’em. Just give me some time to make it happen for myself. I work better spontaneously, anyway. Someone puts an idea in my head and I’ll just make that decision later that day. Thank God I have colleagues who care enough about me to encourage their fellow co-worker like that. With their help, I finally have something I can look forward to. And it’s gladly happening all on my dime.

It feels like I can be open to a lot more now, and came about simply by booking the trip. I know I’ll be in the moment every step of the way, from the Uber to the airport, to the party we’ve planned, all the way back to putting the key to my door. I’ve already turned off news notifications on my phone in preparation. Now entering vacation mode. Time to run my own show from here on out. I’ll keep the job going as long as I need to. I’ll still lay my head on the pillow each night knowing I’ve done something good. And who knows, maybe someone down there could show me I don’t have to spend each and every night night alone anymore. What happens on vacation stays on vacation, after all.

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