As anyone who works retail can probably attest, the two days off I get per week are what keep me breathing.
I don’t currently live the kind of life where TGIF and “working for the weekend” have any meaning, as my job requires I spend at least half of my weekend watching other people spend their weekend shopping. I don’t even get to enjoy the rhythm of nine-to-five, the irritation of early rising counterpointed by the feeling of still having the night ahead of you when you clock out. I, invariably, sleep in until the moment in which I have to roll out my front door and return with just enough time and energy left in my day to eat, clean up after myself, and roll into bed. I struggle to even find a few moments to decompress, to get around to starting that meditation habit that’s on my increasingly overwhelming “habits” list (reminder: I’m trying to develop good habits to feel less overwhelmed). Anyone who does work or has worked in a retail environment has a decent idea of how important that unwind can be when you’re faced with the more abrasive sides of humanity for 8 hours every day. Hence my days off being my saving grace.
That sounds so stupid to say. Who doesn’t live for their time off? Well, I guess, other than people who are actively working in a profession that brings them joy and fulfilment. So, I guess I should say, what struggling and underemployed millennial doesn’t live for the days they’re free? Everyone does. Of course. I’m not special or unique in feeling a wave of tingling calm wash over me when I wake up only to realize I don’t technically have to. But beyond that, more than that, I’ve started to realize that my days off are important enough to bring me to tears when they seem to far off or cause my chest to tighten in panic when I think they might be compromised because they’re when I feel like myself.
When I work I wear clothes that are, more or less, something my mom would agree with me wearing in public. I might wear too many patterns or some interesting thrift store finds, but my uniform tends to have an underlying Target level of acceptability. I rarely feel compelled to do anything with my face and accept my hair as it lies after brief finger combing. I speak more quietly and in a tone that is unique to the situation. My smile is genuine, but feels differently shaped than when I’m off the clock. I still unabashedly share my geeky interests with coworkers and customers and certainly retain my warped concept of time management and focus, but it feels like a different version of myself is doing these things. I think about what I’ll do when I get out of work in the same way that I might brainstorm ideas for what characters might do next in a story I’m toying with.
On days off, I wake up and feel like the person who cosplays and runs The Boston Whovians, not their slightly bewildered stand-in. I might put on some makeup, I’ll wear clothes that make me feel comfortable rather than what’s near at hand. And, maybe, I’ll find time around getting the sleep I need and running the errands the steady turn of adult life requires of me to have an adventure. This doesn’t generally mean anything more interesting or exciting than venturing out somewhere to browse things I can’t afford or seeing a movie or walking in a large aimless circle through a part of the city I’m fairly confident I won’t get lost in, but it’s these excursions of desire and not necessity that make me feel not just like myself, but like a real and present player in the narrative of the world at large. If I walk through Chinatown in a funny hat with my headphones in, not needing to be anywhere in particular, I can finally have a moment of feeling like I live here in a city I both admire and take pride in deriding. If I get to spend time with someone who seems more “city” than me, I can feel like I’m finally becoming part of a young adult social circle that does things like meet for coffee and wear blue lipstick. If I get to show someone around, I get the rush of knowing I’ve got at least a grain of that sparkly, unrealistic adult life we all tried to pretend was waiting at the end of the college rainbow. (My unrealistic vision of post-college life looked something like Rent, so it actually wasn’t hard to find a little of that spirit.) If I get to go somewhere with Konner, I can sort of see the walls of the time and place I’m running around in (Boston, 2015, age 23) take a few steps back and be assured that there is time ahead and behind and around me, spreading out and not crushing.
When I daydream at work, it’s about stupid tiny moments of adventure, where I get to watch and absorb and participate instead of pace in a small circle. I think everyone probably does. I think my goals for the future need to include adventures comprising more than 16 hours of my week.
(I had every intent of finishing this when I started it on Thursday, but I was busy Adventuring. So this is DAY 2 but not consecutively.)