Habits

As a child, balance seems to be built into life. From before five until nearly twenty, life carries such a consistent routine that our approach to various days and seasons gets baked into our being. For most, this continues after college, with the abrupt, disturbing realization that summer is no longer the reprieve it once was. Like that lovely sick day spent watching SportsCenter or Bob Barker, a serious change to the hard coded routines of life can be so relaxing it’s easy to question ever going back.

28.6%. 2/7. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that’s the break we need. Societies have tested with the idea of a four day week, but it’s consistent worldwide that Monday to Friday is for work. Combined with the globalization that has connected economies, this construct has traveled to almost every corner of the globe. Saturday nights bring out the sports cars in Shanghai the same way it does in Miami. Sunday mornings are met with tea and chit chat in London and Istanbul just the same. Mondays send kids back to school and everyone else back to work. As the weekend approaches, whether in Helsinki or Hong Kong, the energy, along with alcohol sales, picks up and a collective exhale signals the start of the weekend.

Summer has long brought a similar anticipation. Children balance out the long year of classes and finals with near absolute freedom. In most of Europe, as is evident by the guest baristas, waitresses, and salespeople throughout London, summer means a similar break for adults. The idea is becoming a bit more en vogue in the US, as the tech world’s work-from-home attitude and casual offices leaks into other industries. People have realized that chilling out might be good for business and is definitely good for life. Even without a proper month off, half day Fridays in the summer, Memorial Day and July 4th vacations, and hopefully a few days in August to soak up the sun, bring true anticipation for summer. For me, it’s surely become physical. As the years pass, I find myself more aware than ever of our movement around the sun (strange). Being in London, where late June means 10pm sunset, I felt the days get longer after December 21st and the extra light after March 21st. Now, past the summer solstice, I feel the days getting shorter. It’s only July but I can feel what’s ahead.

Such schedules breed amazing routines. The consistent weekend, always coming after a week at the office or in the classroom, has created rituals that may never be broken. Even as a kid, Friday night was a chance to stay up a bit past bedtime, eat a little extra ice cream, look forward to sports and cartoons in doses that don’t happen during the week. After entering the workforce, maybe just moving out of the house, Thursday begins to provide the first nibble of weekend. Patience shortens as a self directed adult, and waiting for Friday evening to go to dinner or have a few pops doesn’t seem fair. Find yourself in the right industry or at the right university and this probably gets pushed up to Wednesday. While socializing doesn’t always beget drinking, it does for most. Five drinks on Thursday night leads to complementary, Friday morning egg sandwiches. Though it may seem like we’re in total control, these types of cause and effects exist throughout the weeks and years. We work hard in April and May, knowing that June and July won’t be busy. Or do we relax in the summer because of the hard work? We take on the hardest, most complicated problems on Tuesdays and Wednesdays because who wants to work on TPS reports while hungover on a Friday? Or does the midweek grind lead to wild Thursdays?

Last night, I found myself sitting in a bar waiting for the cheeseburger and fries that’s become my own end of week routine. With a nice tall beer in hand, I plopped down at a bar table, still in the action, but not being waited on. The space was big and open, complemented by a playlist of rock classics I’m always hoping for, songs I can’t name by artists I can. For the ten minutes before my food arrived, and throughout my second beer after the meal, I found myself reading. And really into the book, jumping through pages as fast as ever.

For years, reading hadn’t been my thing. Sports, good old fashioned action, that was my thing. As books have become more of a habit, they’ve still remained a chore. Reading usually happens during a lonely lunch or while commuting on the bus, when classics are preferable to internet nonsense. Weekend mornings are a new thing, a time that feels so wrought with possibility, spent absorbing another’s thoughts. It’s like a slap in the face to the go-get-‘em attitude that brings stress to the week. But Friday nights, only succeeded by Saturday I’m sure, is even better. While others are bump with energy, letting out all the frustrations and anxiety from work, dressing up fancy and heading to the clubs, I was totally absorbed. The book will read the same on Sunday or Tuesday, but that made it better. It felt like my first Sunday Funday. There’s a chance to follow protocol, but why?

Certain agreements have permeated throughout the world, impacting people of all ages and races. Few is as widespread and accepted as the two day weekend. It’s no surprise we’ve each built our own relationship with the situation. For some, jobs as a bartender, nurse, or pro athlete mean a reevaluation of consistent rituals. For most, though, Friday is for drinks, Sunday is for relaxing, and Monday, well Monday isn’t worth getting into. But growth changes priorities. I know how getting trashed with buddies will feel, both today and tomorrow. But I don’t know what’s at the end of that book, what Monday is like after working hard on Sunday, or how a healthy Saturday dinner feels. But I stick to my rituals because they’re what I enjoy, what my body and mind needs, right? Maybe not.