The Rest is History
(see what I did there...)
There’s this meme that says, “Adulthood is saying ‘but after this week things will slow down a bit’ over and over until you die.”
This hits me hard and in a lot of places, including the parts of my brain that think I can squeeze one more project in; the part that has a complete inability to assess how much time a task takes, vs how much time I want it to take and how much it actually takes.
I actually started writing this weeks ago, and honest-to-god-I-shit-you-not, one of my friends said to me the exact line: “Things have been crazy, but after next week, they should calm down a little.” I reached out to her today (over a week later). She said things are crazy, but she expects them to settle down soon.
I have zero history of knowing how to rest.
My work life began behind the counter at McDonald’s, where their employee motto was “If there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean.” It was common for 16-year-old me to pull 12- or 14-hour shifts on weekends, often racking up 40 hour work weeks while still in high school. Three of my siblings worked at the same store, all of us socking away money for college tuition. Our managers knew that when they were short staffed and called our house my mom would answer, promising to send one of her children in to work. Days off weren’t an option.
Summers during college I worked three jobs to cover tuition. There were summers when I worked every day between finals in May and the start of classes in September.
Less than a week after college graduation, I rolled straight into a career in the yachting industry. The hours demanded of us in preparation for and during charters or guest trips made my McWorkdays look like a lark. For decades of my life, I existed in a culture where we boasted about how many consecutive days we worked without a break (my record is 102). We wore our exhaustion like a badge of honor, our productivity a point of pride.1
I’d start my day before 6am, stumbling from my cabin into the galley to prepare guest breakfast, which would flow into lunch, or rather two separate lunches, one for crew and one for guests. I’d finally finish the last of the lunch cleanup around 2:30pm. My reward for this effort was my first break of the day. I gave myself until 3pm, when I had to start prepping for evening meals. Things would get pretty intense by the time the first course of guest dinner went out, requiring all of my focus and energy. If we were lucky, we’d been done by 10:30pm and I could be in bed by 11pm.
Sometimes these trips were only 7 days. Sometimes one month. Sometimes longer.
Taking a break wasn’t in the schedule.
I didn’t need a break.
There was work to be done.
What a load of shit.
I was aware that I couldn’t function, that my brain was addled from exhaustion, from lack of sleep, from over working. I could see the chaos in my brain, I knew I needed rest, but that was not an option. 2
Fast forward to today.
I’m mostly out of the yachting industry. But I can’t shake that mindset, a way of working that has been ingrained in me my whole life.
I am the chef for Tybee Wellness Retreats. For guests, it’s a weekend of rest, relaxation, self-care and self-discovery, along with fine vegetarian cuisine. For me, it’s a grueling 4-day marathon of memorable meal making. I find myself falling into my old work routine of work, work and more work for 12 or 14 hours straight.
Except for one difference.
Angela. She is the owner/founder of the company. I feel comfortable calling her my workwife. She’s on to me. She insists I take breaks. She demands I create spaces of rest in my workday. She holds me accountable not just for the work I do for her, but for the non-work I do for me.
This takes some getting used to.
The idea of rest is new for me and deserves some exploring. So, our theme for December is rest. This is normally a month packed full of busyness and excitement, so I think this is a perfect time for us to chill the fuck out.
Let’s start with an awareness and self-assessment of your personal rest habits. Pay attention to your attitude towards rest, yours and others. Take a moment to examine your own work history and habits.
I’ll be back in your inbox with some more juicy rest discussions.
I actually worked for a guy who believed that as his salaried employee, any time I took off was akin to my stealing from him.
The industry now has standards of rest and how many hours a crewmember can work in a day. The nuanced international nature of the industry makes it difficult to enforce.