Who are you, if you don’t count work?

This question may sound strange, until you think about how you normally introduce yourself. I bet one of the first things you’ll say when meeting a new person will be about your job and occupation. For better or worse, what you do for a living is a significant part of everyone’s identity.

But if you take that away, what’s left?

I had this question at the back of my mind during the longest time off I’ve had in many years. Working remotely, we usually split our holiday into several short chunks so that we can work a bit and relax a bit in many different locations each year. This time we took an uninterrupted break of 2.5 weeks with nothing more on the schedule than to sightsee and relax.

As it turns out, relax doesn’t come to me as naturally. For the whole time I felt like I’m doing it all wrong. Just as if this large chunk of time off was my once-in-a-lifetime chance to catch up on my personal todo list and projects in my backlog. Just as if putting my brain to rest and just experiencing and enjoying what’s around wasn’t a good enough way to spend these two weeks.

Instead of feeling relaxed, I was anxious if I’m using my time off well enough

Some days, I would run from one Unesco site to another, trying to see as much as humanly possible. The next day, I would be too tired to leave my immediate neighborhood. Shit, I was supposed to relax, and I’m exhausted! How am I supposed to come back to work after this?

In the end, I’ve seen more temples than I could reasonably appreciate, walked 3x more than my Fitbit wants me to, read 1.5 books, took a calligraphy class, did some journaling, bathed in hot springs, watched wild birds, and ate heaps of delicious food. Still, some part of me felt like I should take this opportunity to work on something meaningful, cause there won’t be another in the nearest time.

Work? Wasn’t this supposed to be a holiday?

Working hard is such a big part of my identity, that even on holiday I couldn’t stop thinking about my todo list. Even after logging off from all company systems, I still had lots of personal projects to contribute to, and not doing so made me feel guilty.

I wouldn’t probably believe you if you told me this would be the case. I thought living in the moment and finding joy in stillness come to me naturally, and that I could actually benefit from more planning and discipline. As it turns out, I’m great at relaxing after I’ve accomplished something I can be proud of. Out of my regular work schedule, I can’t take this for granted anymore.

My worth isn’t just in what I do.

Especially on holiday, I should be able to let go of all expectations and todo lists, and just be, experience, and enjoy. During these last two days, my plan is to have absolutely no plan at all and just be however I feel like to be. If that’s spending the whole day in bed, that’s perfectly fine too.

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