[Island Palms Resort pool at sunset]
My dad forwarded me an email from the Guest Services staff at the resort at which we're staying for this vacation, welcoming us and letting us know of some fun activities to do while we're there. That's not really important; what sort of struck me about the email was the title. "Plan Now, Relax Soon." Certainly that's what a vacation is all about; you plan (and plan and plan) and make yourself maybe even more stressed/anxious than you were before you ever even decided to go on vacation at all, presumably to decrease your daily stress and anxiety, but when you get there, ideally all that goes away and you turn into a wonderfully lazy pile of relaxed mush.
Until, of course, you get back home. New research shows that, although it's been proven that experiences, such as going on a trip or to a play or out to dinner, increase happiness more than material possessions, such as buying a new pair of shoes or a new car, people's level of happiness after they return from vacation is no greater than the happiness levels of those who did not take a vacation. Those planning a vacation were happier than those not going away, most likely due to the anticipation of the trip, but once they return, having to then anticipate all the work they have to catch up on and impending responsibility can sort of siphon off all those positive benefits they gained by going on vacation in the first place.
[San Diego Bay, via Island Palms Resort]
Pretty depressing, huh? But when you think about it--at least, when I think about it--it's definitely a little true. I never really enjoy my last day or two of vacation because I'm always dreading returning home. (The big exception here is "summer vacation," which isn't a real vacation anyway since I work 40 hours per week, but I always anticipate going back to school by the end of July. I just like to be busy and stimulated.)
However. You might be thinking, "Gosh, Michelle, you're bumming us out. Why are you writing this before you go on a vacation? [Well, I guess since you guys are reading this on Thursday, I'm already on vacation. Which is even more of a bummer!]"
Because truth be told, that's not really the point of this post. I enojy my vacations well enough; sure, no one wants to go back to work afterward, but I do get to see L. afterward. And when I get back it will be August, and then I'll be that much closer to senior year. So, I'm not experiencing any big plummet in happiness after my vacations.
The reason I was drawn to that quote--"Plan Now, Relax Soon"--is because in a way I sort of feel like that is my ultimate, yet unattainable, goal in life. I mean, that's sort of the whole point of this blog--this blog where "an admitted compulsive planner appreciates small moments." I'm always planning, but never relaxing. The research I cited above, that says people get the most happiness out of planning their vacations, even more than being on them? I must have that, to the extreme.
I don't think I've ever not known what my life would look like in a year, two years, even four years, at least since the age of 12, when I began living with my adoptive parents. Before that, I had no control over my life, over with which family members or foster homes I lived, over not only where my life would be year-to-year, but even if I would have the opportunities to even go to college. I've always loved school and excelled in it, but back then, I simply might not have had the money or the support. I think, though, since I've been safely, comfortably, and above all happily living with my adoptive parents for the last ten or so years, I've found an obsessive love of planning--mostly because now, I can. In high school, I could plan to go to a great college; I had the grades, I had the recommendations, and I had my parents' support. Now that I'm about to begin my senior year, graduate with honors, and complete a two-year internship, I can plan to move anywhere I want (LA) and reasonably expect to find a job, because I've worked for that, and because I have the freedom to. Now that I'm in a serious relationship, I can plan to move to LA with L., sign a lease with him, and possibly even marry him. So even though I know that obsessive planning really detracts from appreciating everyday moments--it's something I really do struggle with every day, having the newfound option of planning, and the ability to, is almost intoxicating for me, since for so much of my childhood everything in my life was beyond my control.
That being said. Planning is exhausting. It gives me a high to go on idealist.org or mediabistro.com and search for my dream job in Publishing; there's hardly anything as exciting as logging onto rent.com and finding L.'s and my future dream apartment in West Hollywood. But it makes me tired. And then I realize: what about senior year? That's going to fly by, and I would have been so busy finding editing jobs and one bedroom apartments that I missed everything. And then I realize: as much joy as having my own clean, well-decorated apartment will bring me, shouldn't I appreciate this essentially rent-free, effort-free last year in dorm life? A lot of things in my life right now--communal living, rigid class schedules, internships--might not be as sexy or exciting as what my life will hold next year, but it's probably the last time I'll ever experience them. Do I really want to just essentially fast-forward through them?
Not only on my vacation, but really in my life: I am going to try to relax. I can't promise there won't be clandestine job searches and online apartment-lusting, but, I don't want to be a statistic of that study and only enjoy my life when I'm planning how I'm going to live it. I'm going to relax, not soon, but now.