How Do I Avoid Judgement For A Plan-less Winter Break?

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Dear Miriam,

I’m a teacher, so I have the next week off work for winter break. I need a genuine break, and for that and several other reasons, I have no plans between now and the new year. But what do I say next week in the teachers’ lounge when people ask me what I did? I am comfortable with my plans but don’t want to come across as a weird hermit.

Gloriously Alone


Dear Gloriously,

Good for you. When you have a limited number of days off and decide to prioritize yourself and your needs, that’s not a misanthropic move – it’s beautifully, powerfully self aware. I would bet actual money that many of your coworkers who will come back to school with stories of airports and family gatherings, parties and ski trips, wish they could be in your shoes with no plans, no people, and no (or at least a lot less) pressure.

How people react to you will come down to how you self-describe the past ten days. Avoid the urge to justify or apologize for your no-plans winter break. Don’t over-explain or rationalize. Maybe there are a handful of activities you could describe, like “I caught up on my end of year reading list,” “I took care of some house projects I hadn’t been able to get to,” “I watched some great movies,” or, “I finally perfected my Bubbe’s babka recipe.” All of these could essentially be read as variations on “I stayed home and spent time alone,” but they give insights into who you are and how you spent your time. You could also smile and shrug and say “this and that, but I’m back and refreshed for the next part of the school year.”

In your question you cite “several other reasons” you wanted to stay home as well, so I do wonder if you’re entirely satisfied with this plan. Maybe you don’t quite have the funds for a trip right now or have some difficult family stuff getting in the way of wanting to visit. Maybe it’s a health issue that means you sleep better at home or a recent break up that means you really need this time for self care and self reflection. Without too much speculation here, I would encourage you to think about all the factors at play and whether, when spring break rolls around, you’ll want to make the same vacation choices. If not, maybe you can actually spend a small part of the next few days laying the groundwork for future plans that could allow for rest and recuperation and also some nice little experience outside your home.

Or not. You don’t need to force yourself into an activity so you have something to tell your coworkers about. No one gets to mandate the “right” way to spend your time off. If you’re really making the choices that are best for you, then you can be secure in knowing that, and the rest of your considerations just fall away. When it comes time to go back to school, listen politely to others’ inevitable complaints about in-laws and traffic and think fondly back to your own cozy time spent exactly the way you chose to spend it.

Be well,