Eight hours or more a day. Five days or more a week. Forty-something weeks a year. Fifty years a life. You do the math. Because I can’t. All I know is that I spend an incredible amount of time at work. Sometimes it seems that I just live for the weekend, for the vacation or national holiday. Then again, life doesn’t only happen on my time off. It is also lived during working hours. The satisfaction of enjoying (or at least not hating) my “work-life” is a luxury I wish on everybody. Especially in these crazy Corona-times. However slow the clock at work may be moving, however long a workday appears when I am enduring it, time is precious. We all don’t have an infinite amount, and wanting it to move quicker seems like a waste of time. Not all hours of life can be thrilling or fulfilling, but a whole career spent wishing we were elsewhere is probably nothing to strive for. A former supervisor of mine once told me: “You don’t like to work here my dear, here is the door. Nobody forces you to be here!” Good point.
When I was a child, I envied everyone who was retired. I wished I could skip the working years completely and go straight to retirement. I pictured how lovely a pensioner’s day must be. Meeting friends, drinking tea, or sipping on wine, going to the museum, reading the newspaper daily from front to back. Spending hours in a favorite armchair, having all the time to read all the books in the world, one country at a time. Going on trips whenever I feel like it. That was my unreasonable romantic expectation of retirement back then, and it kind of still is.
I remember imagining how it would be, going to work every day. Not being in control of my own schedule or activities. Doing something just for money. It didn’t make sense, and I couldn’t picture myself spending years doing it. I figured this wasn’t anything to worry too much about, that I would in time understand the workings of society and come to accept the concept of livelihood. But should we?
There was also a time in my life when I didn’t work. I studied full-time and took leave without pay. It was a great time. Almost no regrets. Then there was a time when I had to go back to work because I am responsible for this little almost seven-year-old son of mine. There is some sort of pride I feel in providing for him and I. That I am capable of it because I am able to work. Priorities and responsibility, my friends. Sometimes, we don’t have a choice. This is my job and one side of my life. And I am glad to be back.
But there is so much more to be found in a job. I am very lucky because I find purpose, passion, fun, and sometimes even pure joy. You don’t feel lucky? But luck or not, you could at least demand meaning. That what you spend your days, weeks, and years doing has importance to yourself or your surrounding, so the weekends aren’t spent dreading the Monday ahead. I find myself pondering ideas, find solutions, or new ways of doing things, eager to have another great day at work or wherever.
I create to-do lists, I write, I read. I do things that make me happy. I enjoy getting up most of the mornings, steaming cup of coffee in hand reading a bit to my son. A fresh start, a fresh morning. You know what? It is a precious gift to be physically (and mentally) able to get out of bed in the morning. And there is a relief of getting back into an everyday routine which calmed the nerves. By the end of the day, my life is back in order, I do things that make me happy, and if this means treating myself and my partner to a home-cooked meal in front of an easygoing, funny crime-show and laughing until we cry so be it. Do what makes you happy. Remember, there is only this one life.
That’s when I know I am there. I have stopped living for the weekends and vacations, and instead start appreciating all of it, all the hours. Well, most of them anyway. And no matter how alluring those retirement days seem, slowly spent reorganising the library or taking those Italian language classes, I am fine having retirement stay in the future for now.
Friday is still epic. By the time this beautiful day rolls in, another favorite weekly moment is here, and I cannot wait to happily hashtag #TGIF. Work is good and play is good. Both essential aspects of a carefully balanced week.