I put the shop on vacation and took the last three weeks off to attend a friend’s wedding in Italy, and then to travel around a bit with my partner. A lot of people have been asking how my time away was, and I've just been saying, "It was good!", which it was, but I thought I'd write out the full answer that's been swirling around in my head, about vacation expectations and finding sustainable rest and joy:
I’d been looking forward to this trip for months—I was feeling really burnt out, and feeling tired of feeling burnt out, and also tired of talking about how burnt out I was. This trip was going to be the panacea I needed—a few whole weeks of doing nothing but marveling at some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, visiting the most iconic art, and eating the most delicious meals. I was going to unplug entirely, and leisurely reconnect with myself—me as Janine, separate from me as Kwohtations or me as Welcome to the Grief Club.
So much of what I create is about acknowledging the messy parts of life, about how we have to hold multiple things at once—the joyful and the hard, and about letting go of the “shoulds” that aren’t realistic or healthy for us. I am no stranger to the random, complex, and sometimes brutal whims of the universe. And yet, I realize that I somehow still expect my plans to unfold according to the way I’ve decided they should, and for my actions and feelings to slot neatly into those plans.
Case in point: I allocated three weeks for vacation—this was going to be my dedicated time for unfettered rest and joy, and for nothing else. Like a camel, I was going to fill up to the brim on pure goodness, and then return to work and real life with excess reserves of energy, peace, and joy that I could draw down from for the rest of the year.
Once I put up my Out of Office email notice, Vacation Janine would officially take over, fun and carefree, unencumbered by the responsibilities and anxieties of Regular Everyday Janine. I imagined the trip would be magical because it would be the complete opposite of my real life, or rather it would contain only the good parts but amplified and fueled by excessive amounts of free time and pasta.
But, predictably, as they say, wherever you go, there you are.
What was vacation actually like? I dressed up for the wedding and felt cute for the first time in a while. I enjoyed meeting new people but also had my usual trifecta of general anxiety, social anxiety, and Covid anxiety. I danced—at first self-consciously, but then less so.
We saw a lot of art, some of which moved me, and some of which didn’t. We ate some really good food and some decent food. I had some of the best pizza of my life.
My attempt to photograph a pizza in Portrait Mode, which did not do it justice
Seeing Michelangelo's David in real life was more moving and surreal than I expected
I answered some emails (but not as many). I stressed out about immediate paper shortages, the Kwohtations five-year plan (or lack thereof), and my overall life choices and trajectory. I slept a lot. I tried to come up with some new card ideas, with mixed success. I scrolled the internet (but not as much), although I doomscrolled about the draft Supreme Court opinion and what a post-Roe world would look like. I put my phone away and read my book instead. I got grumpy and hangry. I laughed a lot, and ate even more. In other words, I was Regular Janine, but in Italy.
So, am I rested? Not really. Did I rest? Yes.
Did I work the whole time? No. Did I work a bit? Yes.
Was the trip life-changing? No. Was it life-enhancing? Yes.
My being able to rest is not contingent on me not having any responsibilities. I will probably never be entirely carefree, but I actually think it's a strength to care deeply. My joy isn't unadulterated, but it is integrated into my real life, whether I'm in New York or Naples, which might just be the real magical thing about it.
So, all that to say, I'm glad I had time away, and I'm glad to be back.
The Kwohtations online shop is back open for all of your greeting card and gifting needs! Thank you for supporting this small business.
Loved the read….I can identify many of those same feelings and expectations —some fulfilled and some not. I think at times we set ourselves of for small (or large) disappointments by having unrealistic expectations. I also think our expectations are influenced by those around us and the media (travel brochures, magazines or things on line).
Your post resonates with me, as I struggle with much the same. Something I wonder about: I don’t often need something I order right away. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have delivery options for people? “Five alarm, gotta have it now.” “If you get this out in the next week or so, that’s ok.” “Anytime in these next four weeks is good.” I’m perpetually exhausted by the run, run, run mentality.
Remember to breathe,
Lovely! And thanks for the realistic vacation expectations. We’re going to Italy for the first time next month, and already I’m anxious that it won’t be as magical and lifechanging an experience as I’m hoping for…and anxious, period, about traveling in a new place where my language skills are minimal and I’m shy about asking for help. I’m grateful to you for this much-needed reminder that it’s OK to feel all of that, and to be all of that while I’m there—that feeling those ways doesn’t mean I’m doing vacation “wrong.”
That said…any suggestions for places to eat and visit in and outside of Florence? Like, maybe where you ate that amazing looking pizza and antipasto platter?