Maintaining a Vacation Mindset

Last week I flew into Orlando, Florida with my friend Jake to tour the city, visit Disney World and Universal Studios, and ride the Hogwarts Express. Disney World is advertised as the most magical place on earth - to which I call bull. Both Disney World and Universal Studios are hotbeds for anxiety, exhaustion, and people who are convinced that waiting in lines while watching cartoons on loop for a ride that lasts less than two minutes constitutes as Fun. However, I grant that spending time with the people you enjoy makes the waiting more fun.

In fact, a good deal of the trip consisted of waiting and exercising a certain amount of patience. To start the trip, our flight into Orlando was delayed. Thankfully, we told the hotel staff to expect us after 1 am and were able to extend our check-out time to noon. Several days later, our friend Jessica arrived late on Wednesday morning but we had a towel, bar of soap, and breakfast with an extended check-out waiting for her as well. That same day, we were late getting to Universal Studios, but we managed to cover the entire park before closing time and caught the closing laser light/projection show right as it started.

My vacation philosophy? No matter how late you are, you are always Right On Time. I started to look at waiting in line as an allegory for the grind of daily working life. Many of us are looking for The Next Big Thing or an adrenaline rush that one experiences while pursuing mindless self-indulgence. At Disney, even if you do get a Fast Pass to skip the long lines, the quantity is limited, the ride is brief, and it's on to The Next Big Thing.

With these things in mind, I decided to actively seek to just have a good time, enduring whatever wait times for whichever attractions we were able to see while appreciating the experience for what it was. Overall, I was fairly ambivalent toward what we did, with an exception of the awesome Rock 'n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith that I insisted upon riding twice. Black lights, unexpected corkscrews, and classic rock made for a thoroughly enjoyable experience both times. A few days later, I walked into the terminal for my flight home and took some time to reflect. At the same time, an announcement came over the intercom stating that there would be a 30-minute boarding delay due to a storm spotted just south of the airport.

I thought about the stress I could have potentially experienced at the parks if I had been more attached to riding one ride or another. In high school, I had a friend named Sam who told me, quite confidently, "Everything is everywhere." Akin to the Lion King's "Hakuna Matata," this saying was to assure me (and Sam) that everything was as it was supposed to be. Recently I learned that scientists have found no cognitive benefit or detriment if one believes in psychological platitudes like "it'll all work out for the best" or, conversely, more "realistic" perspectives of daily life. When given the implicit choice, then, to assume whether or not the universe is in your favor, why wouldn't the rational individual reap the rewards of a self-perpetuating positive mindset? I boarded the plane and I fell asleep, waking up as the flight concluded. As I exited the plane into the terminal, I could see my connecting gate just thirty feet ahead of me. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Back in the working world, I have adapted my rhythm to a vacation mindset. I am always Right On Time and everything is, indeed, everywhere. George Bernard Shaw once said, "A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell." I agree. A life of perpetual leisure is not an antidote to boredom but rather inspires it. Many find themselves walking on a hedonic treadmill in their day-to-day lives, clocking in and out and seeking The Next Big Thing. While thrills like the Rock 'n Roller Coaster are great every once in a while, I have found that life will rhyme and echo lessons for us to learn and re-learn, and a growth mindset - stepping off the treadmill in order to actively experience discomfort - is what has the potential to bring us true satisfaction and happiness. Doing rewarding, impactful work well and building trust and loyalty in relationships serve as foundations for the inevitable unpredictability of the theme park of life. After six days/seven nights, I returned home the following Friday night, unpacked, and went to bed, exhausted from the day of traveling but refreshed from the trip with restocked creativity and optimism.

Published July 12, 2016