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The worst part of any vacation you’ll ever take past the age of twenty is that when you return, you return to work. Gone are the days when your parents paid for the entire thing and when you got home all you needed to do was take two weeks to unpack your disgusting, moldy board shorts and hang out with your friends until school started again. The real world is a cruel, unforgiving place, and the photos of you on a beach in Cancun will eventually do nothing but grace your desk at work and bring you tears of rage as you type out another memo for your boss, who’s working from home again.
Part of the bitterness stems from the fact that adult vacations in that interim period when you have enough money (barely) to go somewhere fun and before you have kids are the best ones. Your job probably isn’t important enough to stress over yet, and you don’t have a mortgage or anything major to pay off besides student loan debt, which you’ll be paying off until death anyway, so who cares? It’s the perfect time to blow some money from that savings account on a few nights at an all-inclusive resort while drinking your weight in mojitos. But prepare for the return to work. It always sucks to come home from vacation, but returning to work is a special little slice of hell. Because I care and I want everyone to suffer as I suffer, I’ve taken the time to break down the worst of the worst.
No Happy Hour
Just writing this title upsets me. No happy hour? What kind of sick, regulated, productive place is this? On vacation, I like to start the day with a beach-side mango tango around 9 a.m. Then as the day goes on I might move to beer in the afternoon, switch to piña coladas as the sun sets, and then end the night with red wine or a mai tai. The point is, while on vacation, I prefer to have a drink in hand for at least 80% of every waking hour. If that makes me an alcoholic, fine. Get me a Hawaiian shirt and call me Jimmy Buffet.
When I come back to work this is one of the hardest things to adjust to. Three in the afternoon rolls around and I automatically reach a hand up for a margarita, only to be forced to content myself with some iced tea. It isn’t the same. My soul longs for rum.
As if the fact that your new tan is under-appreciated as soon as you return home and aren’t in a bikini ten hours a day isn’t bad enough, you’re back in industrial cubicle lighting. It’s one of those things that doesn’t sound that bad until you escape it. That’s when you notice how depressing it is.
When you’re on a white sand beach, or rappelling down a waterfall, or snorkeling in open ocean, there is no better canvas for beauty. If you’ve ever been on a balcony overlooking a tropical island at sunrise and had your disgruntled significant other take a photo of you, you know that it’s like being bathed in candlelight. The light on vacation surrounds everyone in a halo of perfect sunshine that camouflages flaws and brightens your face. They just don’t make light like that in the artificial world.
The dummies that you’re forced to interact with on a daily basis vanish when you step onto that overcrowded plane you’re praying not to get kicked off of. The fact that you don’t even have to see your weird cube-mate who never showers and is always eating Pad Thai with his fingers is a brief, sacred blessing. All the worries of your day-to-day job fade away when you’re lying in a hammock in the middle of the afternoon with nothing to do but eat guacamole, and it’s blissful.
The first couple of days when you’re back at work and waiting in line at the coffee machines again just seem cruel. Being forced to make small talk before 11 a.m. should be a punishable offense. And then, there’s the final instance of salt in the wound when everyone asks you how your vacation was, and you don’t know how to answer.
It was fucking fantastic, and I’m absolutely miserable to be back here heating up plastic in the microwave for lunch instead of spooning up freshly-made ceviche. I should be drinking a tequila sunrise under a cabana right now, and instead I’m going to go sit in my cube for the rest of the day and stalk my own Instagram while contemplating death.
“It was great, Karen, but I’m sure glad to be back. How were things while I was gone?”.