It’s Sunday morning. My alarm is off. The sun is peeking through the blinds, but instead of getting up, I roll over into my husband’s arms and fall back asleep. I don’t get out of bed until I feel like it. Later, I put on some great music, make French toast, and enjoy a lovely brunch. The rest of the day unfolds without a to-do list or any feelings of obligation to anyone.
Why can’t every day be like this?
At first, my logical mind jumps in with the status quo answer:
If every day were like Sunday, you would be broke, hungry, and homeless. You wouldn’t have a job, and you wouldn’t be able to afford your rent. Plus, you’d be terribly bored. Do you really want to sleep in and eat French toast every day?
Sometimes I think I would.
Lately, I’ve been contemplating the idea of time and the five-day workweek that holds many of us hostage. Who came up with the idea of a five-day workweek anyway? Does it have something to do with the biblical notion that it took God six days to create the universe, and only the seventh day was reserved for rest?
I recently started watching Downton Abbey (which I was skeptical about at first but have since grown to enjoy). The stars of the show (members of an aristocratic British family) view having a job as something below them. Even doctors and lawyers are considered middle class because they have to work. In one episode, the matriarch of the family is speaking with a lawyer, who says that he enjoys going to the country on the weekend. She looks puzzled and asks, “What is a weekend?”
She might have been responding facetiously, but still, her answer made me think.
Why do we make a distinction between the workweek and the weekend? And would it be possible to live a life where the two become one?
Jump out of your conditioning and really think about this for a moment. The five-day workweek is a completely human creation. There is absolutely no logical reason why we have to work for five days and only get two days off. But many of us fall into this pattern even when we don’t have to.
I’ll use myself as an example. For the past three years of my professional life, I’ve been flying solo—first as an entrepreneur and now as a postdoctoral research fellow. I have no fixed schedule in either of these roles. As an entrepreneur, I could work whatever hours I wanted, whenever I wanted, from home. As a postdoc, my supervisor has told me on multiple occasions that he doesn’t care where I work or when I work, as long as the work gets done. I have absolute freedom with regard to my schedule.
But guess what? I still tend to subscribe to the nine to five.
Monday to Friday, I wake up at 6:30 a.m. (even though I could sleep until noon if I wanted). I make a healthy breakfast, meditate, and head to work. I’m usually at my desk by nine; I take an hour lunch break, and I leave at around five.
Lately I’ve been asking myself, why?
Why do I only make French toast on Sundays?
Why do I only give myself permission to take my time on the weekend?
Why have I (and so many others) enshrined the nine to five grind?
I don’t really have an answer.
Perhaps it’s because humans love routine. We’re habitual creatures, and old habits die hard. I’m sure it’s also healthy to get up at the same time every day, eat well, and get plenty of rest by going to bed at the same time every night. Maybe it’s true that we would be bored without this routine. Maybe working hard during the week helps us appreciate the weekend.
I don’t know.
What I do know is that weekends feel awesome. And I want every day to feel awesome.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my work. But I also enjoy getting away from the computer and taking in everything else that life has to offer. I don’t think humans are meant to sit at desks for eight hours a day in artificial light. I don’t think cubicles are designed to promote happiness.
So what is the solution?
The nine to five is a perfect fit for some people, and that’s great. For the rest of us, I think we need to be courageous enough to buck the system. I already did this once, when I left my cubicle in 2010. But I’ve realized that I’m going to continually need to do this, to prove to myself and others that it is possible to do what you love, make money, and not have to subscribe to a five-day workweek.
Let’s be honest. The minute I say, “Screw the nine to five!” many of you experience a jolt of fear straight through your heart. This fear is about money. You most likely think, “Without the nine to five, I won’t be able to afford my house or send my kids to college.”
I encourage you to bust out of this traditional line of thinking. There are examples of people all over the world who don’t subscribe to a typical workweek but who live very comfortably. Or who live very modestly but are insanely happy.
Why do you feel as though this life is only reserved for a chosen few?
Why not you, too?
Seriously question your beliefs about what it means to live a happy, comfortable life. Don’t force yourself into a box—or a cubicle—just because the robots around you are doing so. The world wants and needs your gifts. Have the courage to put these gifts out there.
As for me, I’m setting an intention to experience more Sundays. I know that this is going to be uncomfortable at first. I’m going to feel like I should be producing and achieving instead of relaxing. But I’ll just close my eyes, take a bite of my French toast, and allow myself to ease into the day and break out of my routine.
What about you?