The Holiday Trap: What are you willing to be “free” to for a month?

For eleven months of the year, we swallow up our obligations while waiting for the longed-for vacation to arrive. And, once it’s summer, we realize what we’ve missed.

Instead of punching in at work, tokens at the beach.
Instead of punching in at work, chips at the beach.
Bad news. Bad news. With just two weeks to go before the newspapers begin to fill up with brief guidelines on post-vacation depression and the tricks to overcome it. But why do we suffer so much when we go back to work? Come on, okay, it’s obvious: because we’re better off on the beach with a beer in our hand than sitting at the desk for at least eight hours a day. But this harsh return to the routine may have a more existential nuance: “Is this really my life? Is it always going to be like this?”

This is perhaps the great epiphany of the year. For a brief period of time we have caressed that which can give life, and suddenly, it is taken away from us. That is to say, an existence in which one can spend more time with one’s loved ones than with one’s co-workers, in which one decides one’s own schedule – eating at five in the afternoon, going to bed at three in the morning, getting up at a thousand – and can widen one’s soul by reading, listening to music, telling stories or lying down at the bar, which is also tremendously edifying.

Is there a worse expression than “recharge your batteries” – are we robots that we have to switch off for two weeks to do more?

The drama of this return to work is not the end of “the good”, as the sentence says, but the holiday, as it stands, is nothing more than the kind twin of work, which articulates and determines all aspects of our life, including rest. Holidays are only a necessary parenthesis in that existence of stress, overwhelm and hellish hours that occupies eleven of the twelve months of the year. After all, as we know them, they emerge in industrialized society, which is beginning to see the citizen first and foremost as a worker.

You’re not a traveler, you’re a self-conscious tourist (or, worse still, a mug)

No one admits to being a tourist anymore, and we prefer to be’travelers’. But we are not all by a long shot: underneath the denomination beats the feeling of guilt and the desire to save a few euros.
What are we, robots who need a couple of weeks to get back on their feet so that they can do better, and is the holiday just a small concession to, in return, get our heads screwed on – to keep the metaphor going – for the rest of the year? It is also a sign that we understand the reality around us in terms of work. The summer period thus becomes a preseason in the following year, a brief truce to “disconnect” – a truce in which some suddenly realize that perhaps life should not be like this and remember that in the Bible, work was not dignified, but a punishment.

Living for the summer

Not so long ago, vacations had a much more ritualized component than they do today. This was due to the economic limitations of most families and the limited development of tourism, of course, but also to the fact that work played a less essential role in the life of the individual: just a few decades earlier, it was relatively normal to spend a whole month in the beach apartment or in the village, with the family. The continuity with our daily lives was much greater, and what we did in the summer was not so far from what we did the rest of the year, perhaps because we had not yet begun to perceive the holidays as the only time we had to be ourselves.

Our lives are in suspense throughout the year: we stop doing what we want to do, waiting for the summer to come. But this doesn’t solve anything.

That is the trap we have fallen into or, rather, been made to jump into. It is becoming increasingly common to hear people lament that, for eleven months a year, they are not themselves, but simply a sum of obligations. The longing is in his words: “If I had time…” Either I would read all those books that I have accumulated, or I would visit my distant relatives, or I would call my old friends, or I would join the gym, or I would go for a walk, or I would carry out so many life plans that accumulate until reality imposes itself. Thus seen, our existence, while we work, seems to be in suspense, waiting for the holidays to come.

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