Taking a Break (Part 2)
Taking the first step
Breaks are hard. Really hard. You’re always fighting the internal battle of knowing there’s more work to be done and knowing you need to take a break. Guilt is strong when this happens, often overwhelming to the point where you would rather keep working and willingly suffer those consequences than combat that guilt head-on. This is a problem a lot of us face because we like to take on the world. It’s righteous and ambitious, but it can be ultimately destructive.
This is why in Part 1 of this series I proposed the idea of making time to do nothing. Of scheduling nothingness, so you can decide in that moment what you want to do. It’s not hard to start, but it’s very difficult to commit to. Recently I have submitted everything I needed to submit to complete my Honours for this year. It’s done. Finished. Klaar. All that’s left now is to re-register for next year, the final stretch by all intents and purposes. And what have I done in the days since? I’ve sat with panic, anxiety and boredom to the point where I literally ask myself, “what am I even doing right now?”
I’m struggling to take a break even when I haven’t scheduled it in. I’m sitting here and wondering what on earth I’m going to do with my time now. I know what I want to do: finally get stuck into Cyberpunk 2077, finish reading Sapiens, and go for a surf. But while my heart tells me to take a chill pill (because I’ve earned it), for some reason my brain keeps telling me that I haven’t earned a damn thing. “Keep working, Zach, don’t stop now.” And do you know what I say to that? With sweaty palms and the looming of an anxiety attack, “screw that, I’m gonna take some of my own advice. I’m taking a damn break.”
What’s the worst that could happen?
I’ve decided that I’ve spent far too much time in front of screens this year. I’ve worked all day and slogged it into the evening. I’ve woken up early and finished where I left off only to end the day staring at a screen again. It never ends. Well, now it does, at least for a bit.
In Part 1, I said you don’t need to know what you’re going to do in your ‘break’, but you need to make time for it regardless. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m taking a step away from technology. Not indefinitely, but for a bit. A detox. The idea is enough to make me second guess where I’m going with this, so it’s an experiment, but I’m looking straight at that anxiety and taking it head-on. Only when we cross the river can we meet on the other side. I’m terrified to take a break because I don’t know what will happen. Will you leave? Will I be changed for it? Will I decide I don’t want to continue this anymore? To be honest, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure none of those things will happen, but I’m so single-minded to rule them out entirely. I guess we’ll see what happens. That’s what experiments are for, right?
Hindsight is 20–20
I split this series into two parts because I wanted you (and myself) to understand that breaks are not small things. They may seem small and insignificant while we’re in the thick of it, but breaks are monumental. They are things we silently thank ourselves for down the line, which we usually only see in hindsight.
The first step in taking a break is simple, no matter how hard we think it is: make the time. The second step lies in contrast to this, it seems simple but is, in fact, one of the most difficult things you can do: take the break, and enjoy it.
As of publishing this, I’m probably sitting around a breakfast braai in the middle of Maputaland with my family. I’m enjoying the fresh air and the banter around the table. There isn’t a device in sight, bar for a camera catching memories. We’re not connected to the world, and even if we were the signal would be crap. And that’s exactly how I like it right now.
I took a damn break.
Now it’s your turn.