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A long, strange trip

bear briefcaseWith summer fast approaching, many eyes are moving from glazed-over to gazing out the window toward a “maybe if I could just spare the time” vacation. I’m thinking of what a relief it must be for colleagues who have been going 100 mph since the winter holidays to take a week off and am wondering if maybe we all spent a bit of time “checking out” along the way, we’d be better off.

Back in my first year of law school, I was in D.C. trying to scalp a ticket to a concert – a Grateful Dead cover band, I believe – and I met a guy who had one. He was in a suit, looked like he had just left work and was at the show by himself. Turns out he had just flown in from work to D.C. for the weekend for a couple of concerts.

“I always buy an extra ticket or two when I go to shows, because I know someone will need one,” he said.

The guy was also a lawyer, and over a couple of beers before the show (on me in exchange for the ticket), I learned that we had a lot in common. Both of us were born in the same hospital in North Jersey; he lives in Arizona near where my parents have retired; and on weekends he flies around the country to new places seeing bands he loves.

When I asked how he had the time with such a demanding job, he told me that he worked long, hard hours just so that he could make the most of doing the things he enjoyed. He saw the work as something that made everything else possible – not as an inescapable job that held him back from doing what he loved to do. So naturally he was happy that I was taking time while in law school to take it easy on a Friday night and assured me that once it was all over I’d be able to do even more of the things I love, because I’d have an awesome job and could afford such things.

Fast-forward five years. I recently spent a weekend down in New Orleans experiencing JazzFest for the first time. Two weekends ago, I did an overnight backpacking trip with a couple of friends from law school. The other night, I returned from upstate New York for Warren Haynes’ annual Mountain Jam festival.

In the vein of Mike Siri talking about “recharging the batteries,” I’ll submit that taking time to check out and relax can be a saving grace for those with crazy work lives. But at the same time, our jobs should not be something we need to run from, or strain to find the time to completely tune out. Rather, like my old friend from the Grateful Dead show, I see my work (which, have I mentioned, I love?) as an opportunity to do the things I enjoy outside the office.

Harking back to some well-taken advice during Bar-prep: take a day off. Once a week, just go do something you love. Go hiking or for a long bike ride, read a book, just veg out. If you do this every weekend for a couple of months, you’ll get back into a lifestyle of doing all the things you love while having a day job that you’ll enjoy that much more.

On the other hand, if you try to run at full speed 12 hours a day, seven days a week, you’ll burn out completely and just wind up sleeping on that beach you’ve struggled so hard to get to. And if you’re Irish like me, that just means you’ll end up sunburned.