The pains of being a Type A personality taking a break

Photo by Ina Jacobe

I used to make Christmas lists, yet not the kind you’d expect. High school me was already over Santa by the time I started writing these, and I’d be lying if I said they made exclusive appearances in December. Before every summer and semestral break, I’d set aside at least a night to construct a sprawling vacation bucket list, guaranteed to maximize the precious days I had before classes resumed.

It wasn’t enough to mark gimmicks on a calendar, or jot down the stuff I planned to binge-watch. Nope, I organized everything I aimed to do and see in categories, from TV and movie recs to books in my unread pile, to recipes I wanted to try baking. “People” had its own little subset, with tick boxes next to names and hangout dates. This was the brand of crazy I formatted obsessively on MS Word, in two to three columns worth of Type A realness, font size 10.

Things that seem like the best ideas rarely ever turn out to be, though. My friends’ shocked, then resigned reactions to The List should have clued me in. (I had it taped to the wall above my desk, like a shining reminder of how my holiday should go.) “Because seriously,” they’d say, “can’t you ever take a break?” I’d point to The List in a show of yeah, I am, do movie marathons not sound like breaks to you? Because that was what all the planning had to be about, right? Having the absolute best break in the history of break productivity?

 

Warning phrase: “break productivity.” What an oxymoron. Like it’s a contest to get the most out of a time when you’re mercifully allowed to do nothing.

 

Warning phrase: “break productivity.” What an oxymoron. Like it’s a contest to get the most out of a time when you’re mercifully allowed to do nothing. I would plunge myself into that sorry race headfirst, plowing through shows I had forgotten to watch over the school year, but just waiting for episodes to end so I could cross something off The List. I’d decide in the morning whether it would be a book, TV, or kitchen day, then realize I had a date scheduled with a friend … all  the while thinking about what else I could accomplish after I got home.

Unknowingly, I had transformed my break into a project, as if I didn’t have enough deadlines outside. The List made leisure feel like a chore, that “fun” meant keeping up with my plans for the sake of completion. I was trying to win at downtime, but when you assume it’s a game, you lose, hard.

One Christmas, I destroyed The List. Tore it off my wall, ripped it in half, left tape residue where it used to be. At some point, the blank boxes grew taunting, and I realized I didn’t want that negativity staring me down, especially not from a piece of paper. I’m still learning to loosen my grip on life’s reins — call it a Type A’s pending breakup with control. Part of that is knowing how boredom, while a luxury, lends itself to the pure, unadulterated rest that really makes a break.

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