The Itch

Thanks to a good mix of banked time off, school breaks, and national holidays, this winter's Christmas and New Year break is a good sixteen days long. With a little more than half a month of time away from the day job there is plenty of time to relax, unwind, and realign priorities. Colleagues understand that I'm unavailable until the new year and are generally supportive of the desire to be "offline", as it also gives them an opportunity to enjoy their own holidays in a similar fashion. This is a much needed break from the everyday. One that the family has been looking forward to for several months.

Yet despite the desire to temporarily step away from the responsibilities of work, there is an itch to quickly connect to the corporate VPN, check some server performance metrics, then organise and perhaps respond to email. An activity that could take anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 hours, depending on how many messages I feel compelled to respond to.

Just like a mosquito bite, resisting the urge to scratch the itch can be quite difficult at times.

Fortunately there isn't any real need to connect to the company's network or check for messages. If there's a serious problem, then people have my phone number. If there are questions, then most colleagues will understand that people take time off at the end of the year. My job title includes the term "Systems Architect", which means that nobody will die and businesses will not fail if I'm unavailable for a short period of time.

Yet the itch persists.

How do people who are perpetually connected to networks of one sort or another tune out this irrational compulsion to check inboxes and corporate chat systems for messages? Given that I am generally unable to work for another 15 days1, looking could spoil the remaining time off. Can a person really enjoy their holiday when, in the back of their mind, they're thinking about something inflammatory someone wrote? I can't. It's sometimes better to be wholly ignorant of what awaits in the inbox. Future me can deal with whatever might be waiting.

Yet the itch persists.

Hopefully this proclivity to freely give my personal time to the day job diminishes over the next couple of days as muscles begin to relax and the holiday activities start to require more focus and attention. Earlier this year when the family and I took our little trips to Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto2 I kept myself available to people just in case a problem arose. None were reported, which made it much easier to focus on the moment. Unfortunately I was a fool during some of those trips and spent the evening responding to messages while Reiko and the boy slept, which resulted in some frustrating endings to otherwise lovely days. Why repeat the pattern?

Yet the itch persists.

Perhaps I subconsciously enjoy being frustrated. This would explain why the itch manifests itself at all. Fortunately the conscious mind isn't particularly keen on spoiling tonight. Rather than scratch, I'll just get some much-needed sleep.

  1. The family will not tolerate me sitting in front of a computer on a day off to do work-related things. They also have little patience for the sour moods I can exhibit when reading messages from certain people who have a way of accusing or blaming others to deflect from their own silliness.

  2. And, to a lesser extent, Kuwana and Inuyama. These were much easier to visit, though, so don't really get the mentions they might deserve.