Vacation in the Time of Coronavirus: A Story of Anxious Attachment to Work

July 14, 2020

Try as I may to give myself time away from the hustle and bustle of my job, I find it incredibly daunting and anxiety-producing to not be hopelessly devoted to my work. 

By the time most of you read this post, I'll be on vacation. I wish I could say I was relaxing by a pool or getting my zen on during an unplugged hike, but that would be the farthest thing from the truth. In reality, I'm with my parents and siblings because my little sister is getting married on Saturday. 

My sister is a Covid Bride. She was originally supposed to get married in late March, but quarantine squashed that dream and now she and her immortal beloved are having a much smaller, more socially-distant soiree on July 18. I'm excited for my sister and I've enjoyed helping her plan for her walk down the aisle. We've been close her entire life, but the the amount of bonding we've done over every tiny wedding detail rivals the entirety of our 26-year big sister/little sister relationship.

Having planned my own wedding, it's been a treat to give her advice and to finally feel like a wise elder on a thing I've only ever done once before. I keep reminding her to take deep breaths and to focus on the big picture (the marriage) and not to stress every little detail. Probably my most profound piece of advice to her for her wedding day has been "Try as you may to make them that way, things will not go perfectly. Expect it. Plan for it. Accept it."

It's great advice... And, frankly, I probably should take my own advice as I prepare to take two days off of work. 

Much like planning a wedding, planning to be off of work for two days is a daunting undertaking. Piled on top of the workload stress is the fact that my job is in the digital space. While news folks have known for years that the news never sleeps, what most people don't realize is that the digital-news media folks are a species all unto ourselves. People like me are rarely ever away from a phone, a cord, or a wifi connection for more than 20 minutes because gosh forbid we miss a breaking story or a tweet. 

When faced with the notion of taking time off from work, what spins around in my head looks and sounds something like this: 

"What if there's a major change, and I'm not around to ask questions?"

"What if someone needs me and I'm not around?" 

"What if something isn't done the way that I would do it and it looks bad?" 

I'm sure all of you reading this can relate. You may not work in a digital capacity or a news capacity, but I think we've all experienced the anxiety that accompanies being away from our daily work responsibilities.  

Over the weekend, I was listening to a podcast about attachment theory and attachment styles and how they impact us as adults. I fall very clearly in the Anxious Attachment category. The thought of leaving my little work baby (aka, the website, our social media, our emails) in the hands of someone else is making my heart race a little. It always has. In the 12 years I've done what I do for Food Processing, I can count on one hand how many times I've taken a full week off of work. 

Yep, in 12 years, I've taken less than five weeks off. In fact, the only time I ever took a full week off and meant it, I was out of the country and didn't have access to wifi.

I'm at the point where I've accumulated so many vacation and personal days that short of a debilitating illness, I probably won't ever use up all of my time off because I'm too attached to my job to relax enough to enjoy myself. I know that the company I work for has people who can dive in and help out at a moment's notice if need be, but I still get anxious at the thought of not being a part of the every day. 

It's time I look deep into my soul and work through this issue I have with my attachment to work. Perhaps some day I'll feel calm enough that, when asked if I'd like to take a week off for a glorious vacation, my answer will finally be, "I do."