When I was on vacation last week I tried to take solace in the fact that going back home meant I could catch up on my favorite TV shows. I thought, “The first thing I’ll do is have a good old-fashioned TV binge for 4-6 hours. Then I’ll feel better about being home.” I thought the plan was fail-safe. My mom’s and my vacation was pretty media-free. When we were in Cape Town I would surf the eight (yes, eight) television channels available in our room at the B&B we were staying at. I usually watched news reports or South African soap operas. The strange thing was any single broadcast could switch languages at any given moment since there are 11 official languages in South Africa. Many of the soap opera dialogues would have one sentence in English, and then the character would switch languages for a few words or a sentence, and then back to English, and then back to the other language for a stint. There were always English subtitles for the scripted dramas but not for the newscasts. The radio stations were even harder to follow. I want to say that the majority of the talk radio we listened to was in English and Afrikaans but the FM DJs were all over the map. I definitely missed the effortlessness of enjoying American media.
One night I struck gold and found “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” at its halfway point. Immersing my mind in a plot made forcing myself to stay awake until 10 pm a lot easier. (Prior to that night my mom and I had gotten into the habit of going to sleep at 9 pm!) Once we left Cape Town for the safari portion of our trip we were media-free. It was that true “vacation” mode that adults love and children find boring. When the time came to leave South Africa altogether it was super sad. (I’m not trying to get you to feel sorry for me but I know you know how I felt!) Again I thought, “All that TV waiting for me on my DVR will make me feel better.” That was until I found out my flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta was 17 hours long. S-e-v-e-n-t-e-e-n hours. I didn’t even know flights could be that long. After doing some time zone calculations and potential jet lag estimations I came up with a plan: I had to force myself to stay awake for the first six hours of the flight (until 2 am South Africa time), then sleep for 8-9 hours, then wake up in time for breakfast. The trick to staying was watching three movies (“Jurassic Park,” “Megamind,” and “Little Shop of Horrors”) on the personal Delta monitor in front of my seat. Cue media burnout! I fell asleep halfway through the last movie but I woke up in time to catch breakfast and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
During my layover in Atlanta on Sunday morning I wrote in my journal for at least two hours and then another hour on the flight. When my pen ran out of ink I took a gander at the screen in front of me and found (much to my surprise) that the movies were free. (The movies on my SLC-JFK flight were not free.) This meant I could watch yet another movie so I picked “Up.” That’s right folks, I watched five movies in less than 24 hours. I don’t think I’ve done that since my post-finals celebrations during college. You would think that by now my brain would be sludge and my ear buds would be permanently imbedded into my ears and I couldn’t possibly stand the thought of watching another minute of movies or TV but… I did. Sure, I enjoyed passing the time on the planes but the mere thought of being able to sit on my own couch (with my legs stretched out!!) was intoxicating. Plus I had to make myself stay awake until at least 9 pm and there was no way I could do that without some help.
I got home at 1:30 and (you’ll be proud of me) I just dropped my stuff, grabbed a new pen and finished my journal entry. Seriously. It only took me an hour to wrap it up. Only then did I allow myself to sort laundry, take a shower, eat some food and turn on the TV. I think I watched four shows in total zombie mode (with frequent laundry breaks) and just as I was fading out (I think around 6 pm) my friend came over and I was able to stay awake until 9. It was a total battle but it paid off. I fell asleep immediately (despite a few “Nightmare Before Christmas” songs still ringing through my head) and I didn’t wake up until 8 the next morning. Jet lag be gone!
Yesterday was my first day back at work and it went well. Last night I went Christmas tree shopping with my friends. However somewhere along the way I dug my heels into the ground and really started resisting this whole idea of Thanksgiving passing and November ending and December, Christmas, and New Year’s suddenly being upon me. Traveling below the equator during the holiday season definitely makes for an uneasy transition coming home. (“What do you mean it’s Christmas time? Where is spring and the lions and elephants and baby impalas?! And why is it so freaking cold outside?”) I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve considered running away from home and becoming a ranger at a game reserve like the one my mom and I stayed at. (“If I’m still single when I turn 40…”) I could learn Afrikaans and an African dialect or two, right? Right.
Tonight after I got home from work I knew the solution to feeling better would be to get some stuff done. I had to complete a new round of grocery shopping and I’m proud to say that every purchased item made it onto its allocated cabinet or refrigerator shelf. When the sense of accomplishment wasn’t quite satisfying enough I decided to load the dishwasher for good measure. After sitting on the couch and staring at the TV for a few minutes I knew there was really only one solution: chocolate.
Snickers Peanut Butter Squared is the official sponsor of my battle against these post-vacation blues.
Thank you to the creator of Snickers, and airplanes, and passports, and paychecks, and paid time off and lions and elephants and baby impalas. You make life bearable, meaningful, and unforgettable.