I had the day free today. And I feel guilty about it.
The deal I make to live with myself when I travel to wonderful cities for work is that I don't actually get to see the city. Yes, I take a day when I travel overseas for international conferences to wander the streets; not to do so would be a squandering of the gift given to me, an indefensible waste and a snub of the travel gods. If you get to go to Salzburg, you should not come home without at least making a gesture at actually being in Salzburg.
But domestic travel is not supposed to be about me. It's supposed to be about the work I came here to do. And having the leisure to sightsee or shop, whether that time is stolen or granted, just feels wrong.
Yet as I half-suspected (and half-feared) when I started looking at the agenda for this series of Atlanta meetings, I did indeed have the entire day free. Our committee met all day yesterday; a bunch of other committees are meeting all day today; we're gathering tonight for the big group summit. When I called home last night, I apologized to my husband for this turn of events.
Of course, he told me to enjoy myself. And I did. But I have to say that I couldn't throw my whole heart into it. I lounged in a coffee shop and read. I negotiated the bus system to go to Virginia Highland for some shopping. I ate a panini with fresh mozzarella made on the premises. I fondled (and purchased) yarn. I stashed chocolate. I scoured shelves to find something to bring home for the kids. Yet deep down, it still felt illicit. Half a day, I could have handled. A whole day, 8-5:30, with nothing on the schedule? Bad, very bad.
In an hour the last obligation of the weekend begins, and the world is setting itself aright. I'm feeling the urge to stay here and grade journals or read blogs or knit, which is only right if I can't actually do so. Such leisure must be earned, and as grueling as yesterday's all-day committee meeting might sound (we actually ran over!), in the private balance sheet in my head, today's great stretch of unscheduled time just doesn't add up.