We are so lucky...
For all the whining and complaining that I may do about this job, I never lose sight of how lucky I am to be in this profession. Yesterday I was meeting with some of my undergraduate students who plan to apply for grad school next year. We were talking about how funding is down and how many people are shrinking their labs to address the problem. They were worried that they wouldn't get into grad school and maybe we should consider industry. We began to talk about the advantages of academia (and a research job) vs. industry.
I worked in industry before I went back to graduate school and found it very frustrating (both in co-ops and a fulltime position). The companies that I worked with were generally pretty good so no issues there, but I found the work boring. Process engineering is basically sitting around waiting for something to break and then frantically fixing it. Its *supposed* to be about preventing things breaking too, but any good company won't have very many things breaking. Many of the people that I worked with didn't really care about their jobs, they worked to live.
I love being in academics. I love doing research. I actually co-oped in research, and at the time was frustrated by the slow pace of things (and lack of success). As I got older and gained experience in industry I realized that only when doing research was I truly challenged. It is a frustrating job, with little immediate rewards, but it is infinitely challenging, allows me to surround myself with brilliant colleagues, and to set my own schedule.
I admit I find it difficult to go on vacation. I really enjoy what I am doing and don't want to miss a thing. I am turning into one of my thesis advisors, the one who could never leave. I didn't understand it at the time, but I do now. When you do something that you really love, it isn't work anymore.