My President’s message is a bit unconventional this month. While November messages generally trend towards thankfulness, my October travels have me reflecting on my ability (more specifically, lack thereof) to “unplug”. As I’m sure many of you can relate, I struggle with truly unplugging while on vacation and enjoying the moment, often thinking about what calls/emails I may be missing, what assignments lie waiting in my inbox and voicemails, and feeling guilty for not working. As we approach the Holiday season, a time for family and friends, it’s critical for all of us to make conscious efforts to unplug and truly enjoy the limited times we get to spend with our loved ones.
October was an absolute whirlwind – we attended 3 weddings in 3 different states, and I traveled with my mother and grandmother to visit my brother in FL, all packed into a 14-day span. Eight days of PTO, multiple flights and hundreds of vehicular miles allowed me to see so many people from different chapters of my life – family, college friends, sorority sisters, my fiancé’s fraternity brothers, some of these folks we hadn’t seen in years – it was incredibly fun and heart-warming. Despite the good times, I couldn’t help feeling a large pang of guilt for taking PTO for more than 3 consecutive days, for missing our first ASHRAE meeting, and for falling a bit behind on life’s day-to-day tasks. How many of us feel this way during well-deserved vacations? And why do we feel this way, even if it’s a self-imposed feeling?
The FL trip was to visit my brother and his family - he is career Navy and we only get to see each other once or twice per year depending on his current duty station. Despite being on vacation I would habitually check my emails every morning - which subsequently turned into a couple hours of work time - and keep my phone on all day, not being truly “unplugged” for the majority of the trip. Most mornings I’d forego beach walks with my mom and three-year-old nephew for fear of missing an important email or customer call (a big regret of mine, especially as the cold weather encroaches). One afternoon I was sitting outside with my nephew, computer opened to review a recent submittal and my phone in hand, as he splashed in his kiddie pool. “Come in?? Come in Ant Ten!!” (we’re working on “K” pronunciations) he asked repeatedly. I don’t know about you, but when it’s 87 degrees outside and a three-year-old asks you to play in the water, the unequivocal answer to that questions is “yes”. I turned my computer and phone off for the day, and I do not regret it one bit. In fact, it was the first time on the trip that I was fully unplugged. We swam, splashed, and laughed until it was dark outside and time for pizza and a “tubby” - it is one of my favorite memories of the 10-day trip.
In conclusion of this atypical President’s message, I encourage you all to truly make the time to unplug and to not feel guilty about it. Glaring deadlines aside, the emails and voicemails will still be there tomorrow, ASHRAE will still be there tomorrow, and projects will go on. The opportunity to be with our loved ones though, whether the aging or the littles, is not guaranteed. For those of you who can easily unplug - I envy you. For those of us who still struggle with it - let’s use the coming months to practice occasionally turning off our work brain, even just for a few hours at a time.
I wish you all a fulfilling and unplugged Thanksgiving holiday.