Another week comes to an end and the weekend begins with the excitement of having two full days open to whatever comes our way. Weekends are sacred to me. For much of my professional life I worked weekends--something that began when I was 15 years old.
When I started working in television news, my shift involved weekend afternoons and evenings and then progressed to weekend overnights. I remember I would drive to work on Friday nights and Saturday nights going in the opposite direction of revellers heading out for an evening of memories-in-the-making. Now, this isn't a feel sorry for me post. Because there was nothing for which to feel sorry. I had a great job being on television, covering breaking news and doing news making interviews. It was challenging and yes, even fun. I worked with incredible people and was busy. Always busy. But when it came to my own weekends (which were often Mondays and Tuesdays), there wasn't much socialising to be done as everyone else was at work. It came with the territory of the kind of work I had chosen to do. Television and journalism aren't for those who want "normal" lives. I know I didn't. The 9-5 doesn't really exist. And that's what made it great too. Until it didn't. Until I wanted to have some normality like going out for dinner on a Friday night, or going to a party on a Saturday night. (I still did those things at times. I would just have to go to work right after).
Human beings are social creatures. Something that has become abundantly clear this past year in lockdown. We need to be around others socially, to not feel alienated from the world. Our physical, mental, and emotional health depends on it. Towards the end of my time doing anti-social shifts, my health was deteriorating and I was increasingly depressed. While a big part of it was the unhealthy hours I worked, an equally big part was the sadness I would feel not being able to do normal things like meet friends at a pub on any given evening. When I was eventually given a normal shift I felt like a new person. My health improved. My spirit lifted. It wasn't just meeting friends that helped, it was knowing that I could, that that option was available to me. And while it raised other issues (like being single in your late 30s isn't fun anymore, especially at the weekends), I was happier. And I became super protective of that free time. So much so, that that realisation of the kind of life I wanted for myself superseded the career I thought I had always wanted.
I began to realise that the next part of my evolution needed to focus on that area of my life that I had always put on the back burner, if not entirely ignored. I began to realise I wanted more for myself personally and no amount of professional recognition would be enough. My career had reached heights that even I couldn't believe at times and I was grateful for every single experience but I knew I needed something else. I would feel it so deeply that if there was even the suggestion of my personal time being disrupted, my energy would just drop.
When I started to really explore what my body and my moods were telling it, it was profound. And uncomfortable because I wasn't looking to balance a career and a family. I wanted something that looked completely different. Something no one I knew was doing. It was scary because when we start to turn our backs on a well-trodden path (even subconsciously) and one that has taken you to amazing places, when we look elsewhere in favour of one that isn't clearly marked, there is a huge fear that we won't find our way back. For me, there came a point that I started to feel that I didn't want to find my way back. I made deliberate choices that would push me towards another direction no matter how unfamiliar it felt, no matter how big of a risk it seemed. I had to take this leap of faith by going by feel. I wanted to see where this other path would take me. And it felt good. It feels good.
Today, the weekends are sacred. They are a physical manifestation of difficult decisions made, physical proof of the right path taken. It doesn’t mean I won’t ever work at the weekends. There will be times when projects and meetings will need to be done, deadlines need to be met. But the difference is, I will still enjoy these moments because they will be the exception. Not the norm. Remember, this is based on having learned what works for me and what doesn't. It’s not for everyone. I am simply learning to listen to and understand how I feel.
Today, the weekends in my household, as they are for many people, are a time to relax, to make plans, to do as we please. My kid wakes up ridiculously early but he is at that age where he can now watch cartoons and get himself a bowl of cereal or toast. It is of utmost importance to me that we don't chart out his entire two days off with activities and chores. When things start up again, he will have his football on Saturdays but that's about it. When he grows up there will be more on his plate but for now, I want him to feel that freedom, that normality of just being a kid, of having two whole days where there is no pressure to do anything (other than brush his teeth and maybe change out of his pjs).
As much as I am making sure my son's days are wide open to fun and relaxation, to meeting friends (when we can) and just chilling, it is for me too. It is time to savour just being like everyone else. Just being normal.