Florida (or the joy of work)

I spent the past week in the sunny state of Florida touring the state from coast to coast. I started my trip outside of Orlando right by Disney World. We then continued to the Gulf Coast and finally visited Tallahassee. And of course we got in some beach time along the way.

All in all in was a fantastic vacation and a good break from the regular humdrum and hubbub of life. I don’t want to talk about the gator we ate or the trash panda we saw, I wanted to discuss a reoccurring theme during the trip.

Everywhere I went I saw people gravitate towards their work.

It was weird. Florida is a living vacation. Shouldn’t people be outside and just relaxed?

I admit, even I couldn’t relax. I was antsy, I couldn’t sleep, and I always felt the urge to be constantly moving and doing things. I went running and it cleared my mind.

While I was on my run I saw a curious thing: a mother was walking with her screaming family down an aisle at the local Publix and looked miserable. She paused for a second and answered her phone as her family went ahead. Immediately her face changed and relaxed. I overheard just enough to tell it was a work call. Huh.

Later on, we were talking with my Uncle who just went back to NASA for an engineering job even though he’s retired. Hmmm.

Lastly, we were at Florida State University today and a professor pointed out a scientist that wandered on by. “He’s still coming in to experiment even though he’s been retired for years.”

Even the grad students were enamored with their work so much that they were almost oblivious to the city of Tallahassee. “Oh really? I had no idea that was here. I guess I don’t get out much.”

What’s happening here? All of these people are retired, in the prime of their life or on vacation and none of them are seeming to “relax” as we conventionally know it. What seems to tie all of these stories together is a number of factors that explained why I didn’t feel quite at ease on the beach but felt much more settled behind a computer or on the phone with someone.

Routine is Relaxing

Years and years of doing something is meditative. It’s even cathartic. You can get in a real rhythm and oftentimes interrupting that rhythm might be more stress inducing than continuing it. Momentum takes a lot of energy to change. At a certain point of working, frustration and boredom is balanced and you end up finding a true flow to your craft. Hours can fly on by and the feeling of accomplishment can buoy spirits more than sunshine and ocean water. It’s only when you’re doing something you don’t enjoy, that you don’t truly love, that you really need a break from it. To those doing what they love, they’re already on vacation.

Do What You Love. Love What You Do.

This cliche phrase is bandied about more than a rom com on Valentine’s day but it’s true to the very core. If you love what you do, it doesn’t matter where or who you are, every day you wake up energized and refreshed. That isn’t to say that work doesn’t tax your willpower. Work is still work, it just is a marathon rather than a sprint. It is that much more enjoyable when you push beyond what you think is possible, when you hold your bladder for that next rest stop (pertinent right now for writing in the car), when you finish the assignment rather than have it nag in the back of your mind. Vacation is enjoyed fully when it feels earned. Why take a break if you haven’t reached your horizon yet?

Of all the people I noticed this in, it really sunk in when talking to the physics scientists at the National Magnet Laboratory. Their work is their life. Spring break didn’t even register. They are solving the secrets of the universe. My uncle is launching rockets into outer space. Why would you ever give that up?

Maybe that’s why I’ve been so uncomfortable this entire time. I feel like I’m finally crawling towards something worthwhile and maybe this break picked me up and put me back in the crib for a nap. I didn’t want a nap. I wanted to run.

When you find your purpose, it’s hard to tear yourself away from it. I can’t wait to get back to Richmond to continue my work. I hope you keep on reading to follow along with my process. I know that if you end up doing something you love, every day will seem like spring break in Florida.