From the beginning of my time at North, I’ve been blessed with a good amount of PTO (paid time off). However, I noticed that as the years went on, my pile of hours kept adding up. I wasn’t very good about using my PTO. Clearly it was given to me for a reason, but I had trouble using it.
I often used the excuse that it was hard to get away. I think this is more a reflection of my ego – my need to feel needed – and less about the actual ability to take time off. It was easier to just do the work myself than to prepare and train others to do it in my absence. I was clearly capable of this – I took a three-month sabbatical last fall, which meant a lot of preparing and training of volunteers. However, it did take a lot of time and effort.
As I saw those hours building up, I made a plan. First, I’ll get pregnant. Then I’ll take a maternity leave. After that I’ll use a few weeks of PTO. When that ends, I’ll be better about taking regular breaks from work and eventually get my PTO down to the 4 weeks a year that I was allotted.
That didn’t happen. I didn’t get pregnant. I didn’t have weeks to burn at home with a new baby. So now what? Here I am with weeks (yes, many weeks) of PTO and my last day is in 6 weeks. Part of me feels a little selfish in asking for time off right before I leave. I did just have three months off this past fall, where do I get the nerve asking for more time off? Part of me is annoyed with myself, that I didn’t take more time off in the last nine years. Part of me feels foolish for thinking I could plan out my life like that and instead of taking advantage of what was in front of me, I wasted it away in hopes and dreams.
And then, there’s the part of me that says, ignore all that. You have PTO, so use it. Let go of the guilt and embarrassment and annoyance of the past. None of that matters right now. You have PTO, how do you want to use it?
So, from now until the end of June I’m using up my PTO. I won’t be able to use all of it by then and that’s okay. I’m going to use this time to prepare myself for what’s coming next: this involves networking and applying, walking and yoga, sewing and reading, writing and silence, family and friends. I don’t know what the next steps are just yet, but I know I’ll be prepared. I know I’ll be rested and ready. I’m taking care of myself now so I can be ready for whatever appears before me.
I sometimes wonder – if I had used my PTO better, if I’d taken time off when I didn’t think I needed it, would I be in a different place now? Did I hurt myself by not taking full advantage of what was given to me? These questions really don’t matter, of course. I can’t do anything to change the past. But, I can use these questions to help inform me for the future. I know now to use it when I’ve got it. I know now that work will go on whether I use PTO or not. I know now that my physical and mental health will be better if I take regular time away. I know now that PTO isn’t a suggestion – it’s necessary.
So today, I rest.