Last night before crawling into bed after a long day and week I took a few moments to catch up on Facebook. Since my week has been a blur, I forgot that today is September 11th, and maybe it is the emotions and hormones of being pregnant, but I got emotional thinking about 14 years ago today and where I was that morning. There are a few times in your life when you can remember where you were, who you were with, and sometimes vivid details of that day.
I have a bit of an intuitive streak that over time no longer freaks Chris out. Fourteen years ago today, Chris and I worked together, our desks were literally a few feet apart. I remember coming into work that morning in quite a funk. Chris asked me what was wrong and I said: “I do not know why, and I cannot figure it out but something big is going to happen today.” New to my intuitive outbursts, he at the time thought nothing of it. Not 30 minutes later, he saw what happened with the World Trade Center and quickly broke into a large meeting in our big conference room on the floor. The only place that had a television where we could see what was happening live. The rest of the floor proceeded to join us as word got out about the events of the morning. We were literally watching live as the second plane hit.
Now, at the time we lived in Boston and were in a building with 25 floors. We were on the 18th floor with views that looked toward Boston’s Logan Airport, where the planes took off. The building across from us was one of the tallest buildings in Boston at the time. The hijackers originated in Boston and they had stayed in a hotel just down the street from our building. While nothing near the fear and destruction happening in New York, there was quite a scary feeling of is Boston next? What is next?
There may be many of you that are too young to remember what happened that day, and others that have lived through other more traumatic experiences, but for someone my age this was the first time something had happened where I was not too young to understand. It definitely had an impact and, as we all know, still has an impact on the safety we feel in our country. Some Americans may have felt nothing could ever happen to us. We had put our guard down. In other ways it brought Americans together. Regardless, it was a horrible day, and I hope today you take a moment to appreciate the people you love in your life. Each and every day is precious.
Americans, we have a problem. We do not know how to stop. I am one of the biggest offenders. We do not know how to truly go on vacation. This CNN article from last fall “Americans taking fewest vacation days in four decades” is quite scary. In 2013 Americans were only taking an average of 16 days off a year (about 3 weeks). For someone who has not been at my company long enough to accrue a large number of hours that does not seem so bad, but when you compare it to the average of other countries where Austria has 35 days a year (7 weeks of vacation or almost 2 months).
This is not a new topic, but it is one that I think as Americans we need to constantly revisit. Why do we give up our vacation? Why do we check into work while we are supposed to be relaxing and recouping from our day-to-day world? Some folks want to show their commitment to their jobs and company (I do not have that problem, my commitment shows regardless if I take some time off). Others might be addicted to the buzz of the distraction. My reason? It takes to damn long to catch up on emails and work when you get back from vacation. You need a vacation to catch up after being on vacation. Often it is easier to keep your inbox cleaned up, clear out the junk for a bit of time while you are away. So maybe I have a problem.
When start-ups and tech companies are granting unlimited vacation I think — amazing! Yet, then I also wonder, will you have so much work and feel so strapped to get shit done, that you never take it? Having never worked for a company with an unlimited vacation policy, how do they make sure folks play fair and use the time in a balanced way? Have we become over productive as a society? Or is the rise of unlimited vacation policies a way for companies to have their employees work hard and play hard. It has to be much hard to manage when a company grows to the thousands to hundreds of thousands. Does it only work for smaller companies? How would such a policy feel to you?
I am worried about myself and my fellow Americans. Do we take enough time for our spouse? Our kids? Our larger family? Do we explore new cultures? Do we go and sit our butts on a sandy beach and fall asleep never worrying what is happening back at work? Or do we go on vacation and constantly check in? Never turning off our mobile devices and never truly focused on the rest we so grossly deserve. America needs an intervention!
This video from Visa, while an ad to go and spend money on your Visa card is spot on.