Where do I want to be?

The view of the northern part of downtown Phoenix from the A.E. England Building of the Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix Campus.

There is an ever-present juxtaposition of city and nature that we ignore every day. Every day we walk by peaceful patches of grass, relieving rows of trees and beckoning benches that are strategically placed within the concrete jungle that is our nation’s cities. Though we encounter invitations for rest on the regular basis, we often ignore them until we are welled up with endless work and responsibilities.

In this photo, we can see the juxtaposition of the downtown Phoenix Civic Space Park, the Arizona State University campus and more prominent buildings within the perspective of a barred-up window. Faintly, in the background we can see a commercial airplane traveling westbound. The first few thoughts that popped into my head while seeing that plane subtly fly by were, “What if that were me on that plane? Where would I love to go? Where do I want to be?”

As a sophomore in college who is blessed and stretched to be attending university with very little cost, work is a vital part of my life. Like many other students I have a full-time class schedule, a 24-hour work week and clubs and organizations that I devote time to. In the grind of work, school, volunteer, I often find myself yearning for rest, vacation and recuperation. This yearning and the question, “Where do I want to be?” have made me inquire about how many other Americans, that also happened to be immersed in the workaholic culture, have not taken enough time for rest, vacation and recuperation. How may this lack of rest and vacation affect our lives, our mental health and our relationships?

In a novel titled Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Nielquist, she questions: “The natural world is so breathtakingly beautiful. People are so weird and awesome and loving and life-giving. Why, then, did I try so hard for so long to get away without feeling or living deeply?” I believe this question pertains to the 9-to-5 work spaces that we create into comfort zones. Many people grow content with working and never taking advantage of living life close to loved ones and veering into a naturally beautiful world.

In the study, “The State of American Vacation: How Vacation Became a Casualty of Our Work Culture” conducted by Project: Time Off, it states that 55 percent of American workers did not use all of their vacation time in 2015. The study also states that, “The 55 percent of under-vacationed Americans left a total 658 million vacation days unused…Perhaps more staggering than America’s 658 million unused vacation days is that Americans lost 222 million of them.” There has been a workaholic culture that has made many mindlessly ignore the nature that surrounds them in small doses and large ones.

From Los Angeles to New York City most Americans would understand and recognize the statement “time is money”, yet when it comes time for paid vacation these same people throw in the towel. Money and the financial security that comes with working a full-time job has become more valuable to most people than much-needed rest or vacations. Many full-time workers receive the benefit of paid vacation yet never take it because they are confined by the bars they create that say their boss would never give them that promotion, or respect them, if they took their time off. These bars are constricting, confining and entirely catastrophic for we humans that need rest, recuperation and real life experiences. In the words of Nielquist, “Stop. Right now. Remake your life from the inside out.”