A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.  ~ Earl Wilson, former MLB Pitcher

Sunset in the OC

Sunset in the OC

Getting back to work even after just a short vacation is tough.  Life these days in the mass communication, mobile, depressed economy world never lets you truly get away unless you make a strong conscious effort to leave behind the Blackberry, the computer, etc.  I found myself on our vacation clearing out my email box every night.  I just didn’t want to get back all stressed out from hundreds of emails.

Don’t get me wrong though.  I don’t take lots of vacations and I probably take on more than I should, but these days it is hard to get away from work for long periods of time and especially in this economy, nobody wants to leave their job for too long.  I did though enjoy the time with my family, especially my wife, to just get out of our house and put ourselves around different scenery.  Disneyland and Universal Studios can’t be more different than work.

Getting back to work these days is tough.  The economy has everyone up in arms.  Our company has had its own layoffs (some just basic performance and others merger and re-organization related) but more than anything everyone is always concerned about what they would do if they lost their job.  In this day and age most of us haven’t live through the Great Depression.  In fact, most of us had parents who were only children during that time, so we are only living through a time that is nowhere near anything that our own parents have never seen.  Or is it?  During the Great Depression unemployment was over 23%.  At the beginning of Reagan’s administration it was 7% and then now we are approaching 8%.  The difference is that we are also dealing with a decreasing value of the wealth that has been accumulated as well as a lack of clarity on how we are getting out of this mess. 

Even more worry is that I listened to our new President’s speech last night and I can’t say I’m as optimistic about what he had to say.  I really don’t see how what he is saying is going to create jobs.  I could see unemployment hitting 12%-15% before any kind of real job creation gets started.  The people need more relief and the local governments need more support in getting relief to everyone.

For me, with two kids in private school, mortgage payments, upcoming tax filings (oh and the California government is bankrupt), and a shrinking 401K,  I know I’m not that different from everyone out there who are just looking for a little breathing room.  I also understand and can see how the government might feel like I don’t need any help.  The uncertainty of the overall economy makes us all feel like we are one bad break away from a mini-disaster.  I hear about people losing their jobs and homes all around me.  I ran into an old boss the other day who runs the global financial industry practice for a major IT consulting firm and when I asked him how he was doing he said, “25% of my clients are going to jail, 25% have been laid off or shut down, and 25% are being nationalized, other than that, I just have to give a discount to the other 25% to make sure they keep me working”.   Did I mention that this guy is one of the most optimistic people I know?  Yes, he was smiling when he said that, but it still sunk in enough for me to write it here.

With all of this doom and gloom, I somehow went back to work and hit the road running.  I felt like I had pulled into one of those small rest stops off the interstate for about 10 minutes, tanked up, took a cat nap and jumped back into Los Angeles rush hour traffic without using my turn signal!  People were honking, giving me the finger and I was having to go faster than the speed limit in bumper to bumper traffic.  One day back in the office with a quick update from my colleague about the things she needed me to fix and I was back on the road.  Ironically it was only 30 miles from where I went on vacation.  Orange County is one of those isolated places.  A Republican stronghold in  Democratic California, it is pristine, everyone looks great, and people there still smile and ask, “How are you?” and say, “Have a wonderful day!”  Is this Stepford?  I mean these people seem to not have a care in the world.

I needed to speak at a conference on the Web 2.0.  Ironically these days I’m already thinking about Web 3.0.  When I got back from vacation I found out that I inherited the work of a couple colleagues who are no longer with the company.  My first thought was, “oh damn, now I need to start performing or I’m swimming with the fishes too!”  Suddenly all the relief I got from vacation was coming back like a head rush.  I didn’t pull an all-nighter, but close to it.  I sat in my room all night working on several new projects, putting presentations together and drinking Pepsi.  Early in the evening I did manage to take a swim in the hotel pool (my new favorite thing to do since a bathing suit is easier to pack than running shoes, shorts, shirt, iPod, etc.).  I took the photo above of a beautiful sunset.  it reminded me of Hawaii.

I somehow managed to get 3 hours of sleep, downed a cup of Starbucks and woke up a sleepy hungover crowd for an 8:30 am panel discussion. My all-night presentations seemed to be received well and I was back to work presenting my overnight work.  Somehow those presentations seemed to be pointing people in the right direction too.  Yeah, it was a productive night of work, but I sure hope that my road of life allows me to slow down again at some point.  I miss smelling the roses.   

Oh, and yes, I will be writing a review of the Marriott Newport Beach.  A magnificent spot if I must say.