Congratulations students! After working tirelessly all year, it’s finally here. The single thing you’ve been waiting for. It’s summer vacation — you’re finally released from all responsibility for three to four months.
Enjoy it while it lasts, as you only have a few of these rare season-long vacations left. As research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms, you’ll soon find yourself among the 84.7% of workers who receive 10 days of paid vacation after a single year of employment on average.
Yes, your once coveted break stretching an entire season has been cut down dramatically — that is, if you’re lucky enough to even receive paid vacation leave. According to CBS News, one in four U.S. workers don’t receive any paid time off or holidays — making the U.S. the only advanced economy that does not federally mandate any paid vacation days.
This reduced time away from work has always been framed as a part of growing up, but that doesn’t discount its impact. Research from YouGovAmerica found that 58% of U.S. adults identified Monday as their least favorite day of the week. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were chosen as the favorite days of the week by 78% of the adults surveyed. The numbers merely confirm public opinion: Consider, for example, that the most popular Twitter hashtag that references Monday is “#MondayMood,” while the most-used hashtag for Friday is “#FridayFeeling.” Yet, Monday’s hashtag was only used 325,000 times in 2021, whereas Friday’s was used 1.3 million times. It could be argued that both hashtags are inherently positive, with one kicking off the work week and the other signaling the start of the weekend; only the intentions behind the hashtag differ — one braced for impact while the other cheered for freedom (and was used four times as often).
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The unified anguish toward Monday has been widely reflected in pop culture. The iconic line from 1999’s “Office Space,” “Somebody’s got a case of the Mondays,” is still used decades after its release, and Garfield’s “I hate Mondays” is a household phrase.
This general distaste for Mondays reveals that while we wake up and take care of our responsibilities and commitments, we’re truly always looking toward any and all time away. We hold dear to any sliver of time that doesn’t confine us, time that doesn’t impose its overarching control over us. This is sad on a slew of levels, but most of all it’s remarkably unhealthy. We’re always chasing the weekend with hopes of achieving a semblance of balance, but we fail to recognize it’s only a fourth of the week.
Are we constantly in need of a reward to get through a difficult task? Is a summer break, vacation or weekend truly enough to validate the drudgery we put ourselves through? It’s as if we turn on a lightbulb within ourselves, justifying any difficult task with the notion that there is truly something at the end of the tunnel and we just need to push through. However, this constant focus on reaching the end of the week prompts us to consider whether we are seeking well-deserved rest or just an unhealthy escape from responsibility.
Yes, anyone could fulfill their responsibilities during the week and later spend their entire weekend donning pajamas while catching up on doing nothing. This completely on and off approach to life isn’t wrong, but it certainly isn’t the healthiest option. This approach to working tirelessly throughout every semester or work week, only truly allowing oneself to breathe and relax come summer or the weekend, isn’t sustainable. In fact, it’s far more like drowning with moments of air instead of truly swimming.
I believe we can reclaim our time and change how we regard it, and truly swim through life. We need to address that vacation itself is overrated. Yes, the privilege of travel is remarkable but an unhealthy dependence on the escape is not.
The 2019 “Saturday Night Live” sketch “Romano Tours,” in which Adam Sandler plays a travel agent, nails the heart of the matter. Sandler’s character boasts about what’s best about vacation but insists on setting expectations: “We always remind our customers; If you’re sad now, you might still feel sad there … remember, you’re still gonna be on vacation,” says Sandler.
This isn’t just imperative for the lucky few that might receive 10 paid vacation days, but for all of us. If we’re constantly only focused on our time away from responsibilities and commitments, not only do we lack a balanced life, but we are frankly living miserably. We need to reclaim Mondays despite our grievances and truly enter the week with a more positive mindset. You don’t even need to like Mondays, but what you do need to do is adopt a more nuanced perspective and find joy in the little things.
Just as it’s begun, summer is almost over. Students: Instead of fearing its end, you can enjoy the time and work on your own habits to avoid clinging to slivers of time away.