As the sun peers through your half closed shades and PM times flash on the hotels analog, the nausea ensues. This is no ordinary hangover, as the 4 pre-bed Advils thinned your blood enough to counteract the personal mini bar you consumed last night. A quick inventory check reveals that your personals made it out alive too…keys, wallet, phone, check. It’s another beautiful day in **inset spring break location here** and you and the other frat hounds from the University of **insert Big 10 school** are trying to disseminate why the bar tender is telling you something about “the hair of the dog” as he tops you off with Bloody Mary #2. Through half closed eyelids and third degree sun burns, what your life was a few short days ago seems almost a millennia away; from chasing A’s and closing out your midterm week to chasing rays and closing out your Allstar week in a matter of seconds. Your international sex-capade is coming to a close and the white bitches are still screaming YOLO. While the physical failure your body is battling seems like the brunt of your problems, there is no cure for the knot in your throat, not even through the holistic remedies that can be ascertained at La Pharmacia, with or without legal proof identificación. Aloe will cure the burn. Water will pacify the dehydration. iCloud will restore you contacts and of course, the frat house drug dealing will fix your financial snafu. Spring Break survivor yet again and with a healthy slew of new notches on the belt, the young and reckless return home to look their parents in their eyes and tell them how well behaved they were. Without the polygraph we lie through our teeth showing even less remorse than we did Day #2 at the beach party. Spring Break is over and the memories are selective but often times we are left with an after taste that isn’t so easy to wash away…”hello it’s me regret and I am here to remind you of the time you let yourself down.”
Vacation time is perhaps the most anticipated and most emblazoned days we mark off on our calendars. Like vultures we circle from above, patiently waiting for our allotted time for R&R to swoop down and pluck the feast that is freedom all too deservingly. As we near the home stretch and our itinerary is slated in stone, we blow all of our reserved energy on finals, work, ect. and cast a Harry Potter-like spell of disillusionment as we tell ourselves “I deserve this break.” The 11th hour tests us but upon handing in the last Scantron, punching Fridays time clock, or folding your last bikini and zipping up your carry-on, we throw caution to the wind and relinquish ourselves from all Earthly responsibilities and revert back to our primal, see food/eat it sort of ways. For 8 weeks we cleansed and cut and for the next 8 days the odds we see an Elliptical are about as favorable as the chances we check our work email. The color coded notes we slave to make for the midterm are recklessly abandoned and flash cards are exchanged for passports and pencils swapped for Raybans. Alas, break is upon us and for the post grad masses, vacations days are snacked on. Old man winter is still banging on his doldrums and evidently, the only salvation one can seek is via an all inclusive trip to a fantasy island far, far away. This island has no law, yet ample vices. No rhyme nor reason and certainly NO RAGRETZ. Or so you thought?
Whether you’re in Mexico for the collegiate orgy or the Bohemian sands with your own family, vacation is somewhat synonymous with indulgence. I suppose that makes sense, as we tell people we are “on vacation,” whenever we cease to do our normal day to day activities. A vacation from work can just mean a few sick days spent on the couch. A vacation from the gym may mean an ankle injury is barring us from play. Even a vacation from your girlfriend may entail that you’re exploring the worlds oldest profession in Vegas and doing a case study on the women who still practice (prostitution joke!). As I sit here and write this prose from the comfort of my own home on a got-damn Tuesday morning, staring out the window at the dusting mid-March still has the potential to release to it’s Northeastern subscribers, in a sense I am even on vacation. Expected or not, whimsical or planned…we vacation whenever we deviate from our normalcy. While it’s always nice to cut yourself some slack and indulge in the no-no’s that we normally avoid for the rest of the calendar year, vacation is our brief stint of saying yes. Like Jim Carey under a spell, the normal discipline we structure our lives around falls to the wayside and the samurais we have trained ourselves to be are tagged out for the hedonistic gluttons that we fight to suppress day in and day out. Of course it feels nice, letting your freak flag time. In the moment raising your glass, stuffing your face, and sleeping with long time best friend seems like an brilliant idea; perhaps you’ll even be telling the grandkids about the glory days or at least make Janet from HR jealous with your authentic bronzino only attainable from the Amalfi Coast. BUT, like all good things, they come to an end and unfortunately, the residual manifests itself as a hangover that covers the entire swathe of your very existence. Physically eviscerated. Mentally inept. Emotionally distraught. Wasn’t this supposed to be relaxing?
Vacation time is a difficult beast to tame, as its roar is fed by a feeling we as people aren’t so used to, freedom. How often do we afford ourselves the time to unwind, unplug and detach? How many times in the 365 day solar star walk do we cut ourselves slack and finally just cave in? It all boils down to the fact that vacation is the time where we indulge in our vices because vacation time is just one giant drop in our personal standards. Day in and day out we push and press ourselves to fit the mold of our strutted lifestyles, striving for advancement and progression through the arduous yet rewarding task of setting standards and sticking to them. Of course, adhering to your own standards is a noble and recommended approach to life; goal setting and self discipline is often the differentiator between a success story and a failure. The pride we feel when we hit our targets and remain on our path is second to none, jubilee that only self-assurance can garner in our wire crossing, emotional headquarters we named anatomically as the heart. Flip the coin and watch it fall on tails and not surprisingly, the remorse and guilt we feel when faced with our shortcomings are as bad as the glory is good. As Newton would say in his Laws of Thermodynamics – which is surprisingly practical across all human endeavors – every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In laymen terms, what goes up most come down and the molly fueled bender sustained through chicken sandwich vouchers and Montezumas revenge may actually sound like the low point, but when you’re on vacation and Jim Carey is whispering, nay SCREAMING, yes in your ear…the amphetamines will cause a young Icarus to fly too close to the sun and come crashing down to Earth smack dab into a heaping slice of humble pie…ladies and gentleman, welcome to your all time low.
Personal standards act as a barometer, testing the atmospheric pressure to carve out expectations and accountability. People don’t give themselves enough credit, a trait consistent throughout the Human Condition, as we are so hesitant/unable to recognize the daily feats we scale and the vices we knowingly avoid. These standards we set surface as discipline, a character trait that we all channel within our own mental dojos. The samurai in each and every one of us has the list of avoidances on hand and we innately begin to distance ourselves from the influences that cause us to concede and open up to the demons in the closet. Fortitude and poise however keeps us day-walkers on the benevolent side, bettering ourselves by actually practicing what we preach. We go to school to learn. Grind at work to earn. Go to the gym to shed and by midnight we make sure we are in bed. Freedom isn’t a word that we find ourselves embodying all that often, because we know better than to fly by the seats of our pants and to simply let ourselves live freely…what we want to do is seldom what we actually let ourselves do. Then, Tom Revere on his noble steed comes riding through our dojos proclaiming, “vacation is coming, vacation is coming,” and we follow that man down the rabbit hole and our samurais commit hari-kari. Vacation is the excuse we’ve been looking for to simply stop going against the worlds grain and bum. Freedom supersedes our discipline and we begin to fail our own personal tests…that’s the pain you feel in your heart and head upon waking up and manhandling yourself and pleading with the gods above, why, why, why? Remorse and guilt surfaces with such bravado that we sulk and attempt to whipe our short-term memory clear of all things besides breathing and H20. Failing your own test is perhaps the ultimate form of failure. The standards we adhere to 50 weeks a year are slaughtered by the 2 weeks of personal allowance we grant ourselves. You always pay for your vacation though, financially and sometimes in an unsurmountable debt of regret.
Earl Wilson perhaps said it best,” A vacation is what you take when you no longer take what you’ve been taking.” Like prescription drugs or really good coffee, we subscribe into our lives every day and for the most part, swallow it like the champs we are. Our daily intake keeps us on course and feeds into the scheduled regularity that the human body and mind grows addictively accustomed too. Like your moms Prozac or your roommates “medicinal herb,” the standards we stick ourselves to daily becomes a supplement that you are not only expecting, but are depending on in your day to day. Without swallowing the pill, your mother will likely feel withdrawals. Without sticking to your own standards and remaining obedient to your own resolves, you too will withdraw and that’s the hangover we are talking about. So, while packing your bags for your weekend get away, pack with you a few of the main standards and practices that you are most dependent on. Syphon through your daily intake and recognize what must be carried with you to the tropical island and what can stay back in the cubicle. Some can binge eat for a week and others can’t. Some can take a gym hiatus whilst in Hawaii, others will feel the wrath of the absence. Some guys can sleep soundly next to a hard 4, others will opt for the bathtub or an Irish Exit. Whatever your list of particulars includes, stay true to that tally and keep those ideals in your mental dojo. Like drugs, the standards and obedience we fix ourselves too become addictive. Vacation is often times are an excuse to indulge and seek out our vices. The grey area to allow for both ends of the spectrum is difficult to navigate and likely marks the point where vacations are regret-less, but until we know ourselves as well as we reward ourselves, don’t let the dust settle on promises you make to yourself or it’ll be a long long long flight back.