Yesterday, while riding the London tube, I saw a man with a tote bag. On it, it had a quote from Downton Abbey that said "What is a 'Weekend'?" I LOVED IT! I pointed it out to Chris to get for my birthday. In context, the original quote is being said by an upper class individual in the early 1900s who is so wealthy they've never had to work a day in their life. Their life is all the same - no work weeks - and so, they're genuinely asking 'what is this concept of a weekend?' That they could be so out of touch with the common man makes me chuckle. But, I love the quote even more because this is still a contemporarily relevant question that in one way or another I'm asking myself all the time. And a question at the heart of my work and why I do what I do.
I love discussing with people their answers to: 'What is your relationship with work? Do you like what you do during the week (and consequently spend most of your life doing)? Or is the work week something you endure and you, to take a common phrase, "live for the weekends"? How big is the difference between the you during the week vs you on the weekend? What is it you do on the weekends? And if the only real living of your true life happens on the weekends, are you happy with how you spend that time? If it makes up your 'real' life is it your ideal reflection of who you want to be?
For me, I used to be someone who saw the weeks for working and the weekends for all the other stuff in your life that's not work. Although not ideal, this would be fine I suppose, except most of the time I really disliked my work and so the weeks became more about endurance and getting through the days. And the days were long because my to-do list was never-ending. By the time the weekend rolled around I was either a) behind on my to-do's and so would use the weekend to 'catch-up' or b) too depleted from the week to build a life outside of work. It was mostly more work, sleep, Netflix, and attempting to get myself out to social events in a stressed and exhausted state. So, life was sort of all a work related blur. Makes for a pretty miserable existence. There were often times I thought I'd rather be hit by a bus on my way home Monday night than have to wake up to another Tuesday.
Unfortunately, my experience isn't uncommon. We have sad emojis for the Monday blues when we start the work week, say "happy hump day!" as encouragement to keep going through the week, and by the time Friday rolls around we’re elated (or at least happy for a couple days with a little less pressure). I'll add also that I see "happy hour" often used not as a happy social event meant to encourage balance, but a coping mechanism to deal with the stress and burden of the week.
Now, things have changed a lot for me. The approach I was taking and path I was on just wasn't sustainable. It wasn't making me happy and I just couldn't keep going on like that. So, I started to really look at my life and ask the questions, 'What is work? What's its purpose and why do we do what we do everyday? And yes, what is a weekend?!'
It gave me the clarity I needed to start changing myself and my circumstances.
Even though I'm technically still a working girl I'm trying to make myself feel more like those wealthy Downton Abbey folk. I'm focused on crafting a life where everyday is enjoyable. I can enjoy a Tuesday as much as a Saturday. No more just waiting for the week to be over. This still includes doing work on most days, but it's enjoyable and sustainable.
How did I get here? Well, the thing is that there are many paths. What works for one isn't necessarily what works for another. It's all about who you are and what you like and want. It's going to look different for each person. It may be that you find and/or finally start doing that thing you would love (or at least really like) to do for work. Or it may be that you just strive to have enough balance (and boundaries) between your work and non-work lives so that there is genuine space and energy available to have the life you want outside of work. Or it may be you continue what you're doing for work now, but focus on making some internal shifts so you can breathe more at work, reduce your stress, and find yourself starting to enjoy it. Often times it can be us that's making things hard, not the situation.
The bottom line is that enduring the weeks and living for the weekends (or just using them to 'catch up' and sleep) is not ideal. I'm pretty sure it's not how you'd like to spend your life. But it's so common we forget that. We think this is just the way it is and they're no other options. And so we continue in a holding pattern for years.
And when we think about possibly doing anything to change our situation our mind is ready with a million objections as to why we can't. Except that's not true. Most of us have choices. Many more than we think we do. I know because I've been there and found another way. I'd love to help you find yours.