Friday, June 22, 2007

My Summer Vacation

I made a decision a while ago that, after 20 years in the workforce, i deserve a summer vacation. I decided to take off the period starting Monday, June25 until Monday, August 27. That corresponds pretty closely to my kids' summer vacation. I'd be lying if i said that my employer was totally down with this idea. Yahoo!, despite pretensions of being a startup-company environment, is really a great big company that hasn't quite realized that it's a great big company yet. We hear lots of internal rhetoric about the need to find and retain talent, but when presented with the possibility of an employee taking what would be a fairly conventional holiday in a European company, they balk. So if anybody needs a good Java programmer, i might be available soon.

My reasons for taking this particular summer are partly rational (it's financially viable, my work environment is in flux, i've got lots of house work to do), and partly sentimental (i want to spend time with my parents and kids, i've been working for 20 years, i need time to consider my career options for the next 25 years). What surprises me is how people react to my decision. Taking off more than the traditional 2 weeks is, apparently, a breech of normalcy so drastic that it requires an explanation (i jokingly tell people that i'm going to Sweden to have a sex change). I protest that it's only 9 weeks, and that this would regarded as completely normal in most parts of the world, but nobody buys it. It must be, so they assume, the result of some crisis.

My desire to have the time off might also derive from the fact that i've been lucky in my career, so that i've never been laid off, fired, or injured. My longest break during those 20 years was a 3 week break between jobs to visit the Philippines with my wife and older son, and even that required me to write a justification at some point afterward in order to get a home equity loan. The fact that our culture regards a 3-week break as a significant stretch of unemployment, is in my opinion, pathological.

I grew up believing that one's work should be fulfilling and absorbing. However, after several years in the workforce i also began to realize that you must draw a line between life and work. I always hear these days that people must be "passionate" about their work, or that they must be "committed" to the company objective, or, most disgustingly, that employees must desire to "win" the competition with their rivals. I've grown to feel that all of this type of talk is a sort of corporate brainwashing designed to get people to sacrifice personal time to corporate ends, and when i hear it from coworkers it's a bit like realizing that a friend has been replaced by one of those pods in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Or worse. The people in positions of authority who spout this nonsense sound to me like either Big Brother (when i have some grudging respect for their intelligence) or like dupes of Big Brother (when, as is more common, the person stating such opinions has other intellectual deficiencies). I know this sounds melodramatic, but i'm convinced that it's reasonable. I concluded a while ago that where Orwell was wrong was that he didn't understand how convinced most of us would be by the propaganda.

I'll probably blog the whole ordeal, mostly for my own sake though i'll convince myself it is for posterity. As good fortune would have it, my summer vacation will start this weekend with a rafting trip on the Kern River.

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