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  • Writer's pictureBecca Dzombak

Break means break

I spent my break doing everything but work. We went on a cruise (my first ever) in the Caribbean, where I mostly avoided the partiers and read many books overlooking the ocean as it glided past. We watched seabirds hunt flying fish. I slept about 10 hours every night and it was glorious. I snorkeled with cuttlefish, napped on beaches, and read even more books. I saw my family. I had some alone time. We started to renovate our laundry room (I’m learning how to properly frame a non-load-bearing wall, and how to reroute minor plumbing, and how to level a floor, and how to lay tile). I started cooking and running and drawing again. I ran into walls in MarioKart as the rest of my friends raced. I read more books. I managed to stay awake until midnight for the new year and clinked champagne glasses with my friends.

In short: it was a real break. Our house had a strict moratorium on work discussions or work; questions about our PhD progress or what a postdoc actually entails were politely swept aside. Any thoughts of work, stressful or otherwise, were largely ignored; I was focused on refreshing myself after a pretty hectic semester, and looking forward to the next few months, which are pretty wide-open.

I set foot in the office today for the first time in just over two weeks; many people are still out, and I’ll spend the week before classes start working partially from home and probably working shorter hours as we attempt to make as much progress on our reno as possible before the semester really kicks into gear. I was relieved to hear that my advisor had also not done much at all over break, nor had my labmates and some other friends as well. I have no guilt, not one iota, about how I’ve spent my time, because now that it’s time to work again, I’m so ready. I’m excited to jump back into my board duties for our chapter of the Association for Women in Science, pumped to write up a couple papers, and looking forward to finally having time to spend in lab after a semester where I’d be lucky to squeeze in an hour or two of time at the bench.

Talking to some first-year students, I heard the refrain: “Well, I worked some over break, but not as much as I wanted to.” One woman said she’d come into lab for a few hours every day, but never really felt like she was relaxing or being productive. My labmate and I immediately said “YEP.” That’s why it’s so important to separate work and actual relaxation: if you have a goal of “working a little,” that can easily turn into guilt whenever you’re not working – chipping away at your ability to relax. Then if you do work, it’s often halfhearted or distracted because you’re on break. They should hang a giant sign in the department somewhere: BREAK MEANS BREAK.

I took a break. I relaxed. I read books for fun. And now I’m back and ready to crush it!

Puerto Rico was so colorful – we only saw Old San Juan, which is the historic (touristy) area. That part of the city had been pretty well repaired, but even here there was still evidence from the hurricane. I’m sure the rest of the territory didn’t look as nice as this. I won’t go on a political rant here, but… if an emergency is declared at the border when one wasn’t declared when thousands of citizens were without electricity, food, or water, then… SIGH. UGH. Anyway, happy 2019!

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