It’s occurred to me that I’ve now had just over three weeks free from school. And the typical American worker only gets 2-6 weeks of vacation a year. And I’ve barely begun to unwind. I mean, I could spend three weeks scaling mountains every other day and feel like I’m just getting started. – Never mind all the other fun stuff.

When I was working I would take advantage of my company’s leave of absence policy which permitted 30 unpaid days off upon request. And, because of our collective bargaining agreement, as long as you gave 1 weeks notice, the request could not be denied. I also got about 4 weeks of paid vacation, one week of “personal days” (which are like vacation days but you don’t need to request the day off ahead of time) and 2 weeks of sick days. Which all got used up, believe me. Even with 11 weeks off per year, I still felt like I needed one more month.

I remember the sense of gratitude I felt during those weeks not to have to wake up early. And to be able to choose what I was going to do with the day. It was absolute elation.

That sense of gratitude isn’t as strong anymore, since I haven’t worked at a job in over a year and a half. I’m taking my freedom for granted. But school, though easier, does still count for something. And so with the summer here and, classes on hold until September, I’m feeling that bit of gratitude again. – That relief.

I think it’s important to not let that sense of elation slip away. – To remind myself how tough it was to suppress my spontaneity, to climb out of bed on a cold morning without enough sleep only to enter crowded streets of impatient commuters in order to get to a job where my bosses saw me as an adversary rather than a resource.

Reminding myself of how bad it was, keeps me mindful of how good I have it, which extends that sense of elation.

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  1. M
    Posted May 31, 2011 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    Dude, you’re making me feel like a caged animal with my pitiful Memorial Day holiday. Returning to the cube/cage after a three day weekend is rough. I’m looking forward to joining you in real estate investing, though. Maybe it will be the turning point I need.

  2. Posted May 31, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Yay, man, that’s surely a nice company you used to work for – 11 weeks of time off per year! (btw, I think you estimate of 2-6 weeks for a typical American is too broad, let’s put it at “2, sometimes 3, weeks” ;).
    And I understand your willingness to have even more time for yourself. Personally, I’m all for it!
    I have tried getting unpaid leave of absence myself – but today they declined it, saying that there must be a reason, like a sick relative, a newborn, etc. Maybe I should start crafting my resignation letter, hmm…. I’ve done this once before, why not do it again? That time, only good things came out of it: I finished my grad degree (needed just one more semester!), started a garden, developed a couple of new handyman skills. Nice! :)

  3. Posted May 31, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    I think having held, for over two years, one of the last cushy union jobs left, has ruined me for future employment. When I hear what my non-union friends put up with from their bosses, I can’t fathom it. They put up with 3-4x as much BS as I had too for less than half the pay.

    Some of these legal jobs my peers at school pray to get after graduation pay about the same as I was making, but require 7 more years of education and about twice as many working hours per week.

    The legal jobs pay ~$150k/year (the better ones). But they want you to put in 90hrs/week 52/weeks/year. Which works out to about $32/hr. And the benefits are minimal. I was making over $40/hr. That included long-term disability insurance, fully paid for health insurance, vision, dental, free tuition to study whatever I wanted, lots of paid time off, double pay on Sundays, time and a half after 40 hrs, double pay after the first 12 hrs of OT in a single 7 day period, subsidized child-care, all kinds of rights when it comes to being ‘forced’ to work OT, the right to an independent 3rd party arbiter if my boss and I had a disagreement, automatic yearly inflation raises, plus a full pension with COLA which I would have qualified for after only 5 years of employment.

    That was my first real job as an adult. It created the baseline though, so it’s what I expect from a job now. So no wonder the available jobs out there don’t appeal to me. They look like slave labor compared to what I had.

    If an offer comparable to my old job came along I’d be tempted to work again for a few more years. But short of that, I’m happy just collecting rent and keeping my freedom.

  4. Posted June 2, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Oh yeah, I hear you, man. Freedom is priceless. Your Time = Freedom (note, not “Your Money” you make at an unwanted job).

    Speaking of your past employment…I hope you weren’t working for USPS! :)