My school was closed for Rosh Hashanah yesterday, and so, I had an unexpected day without responsibilities. Because of this, I was suddenly reminded of how I spent almost four years of my freelance NYC life- putzing around while the rest of the world goes to an office. And the next time you feel completely wiped out- I highly recommend it.
It all started when I studied abroad in London. I was a part of a very intense acting program, and taking a day off was nearly impossible. It was condensed into one semester, so we usually had outings on weekends as well. About three quarters of the way through, I started to burn out. I was getting sick, grouchy, and resentful toward theatre. So I took a leap of faith and called in sick on one sunny Monday. Instead of staying in bed, I took to the streets! I traveled in the opposite direction of my school to avoid bumping into any teachers looking chipper and healthy, and walked toward Convent Garden instead, about a 15 minute journey from our flat. I had barely ever wandered in a city by myself before, especially without telling anyone where I was going. I didn’t have a cell phone, I didn’t have a schedule, and I didn’t have a map.
On this walk, something wonderful happened. I realized a few things:
- The world didn’t end when I threw my schedule to the wind
- The rest of the world carried on as planned- something you don’t notice when you spend the day in bed
- The feeling of having nowhere to be and no one to check in with was one of the best feelings in the world
Now yes, these is the possibility this was a massive revelation because I was only 20 years old. I hadn’t truly experienced independence yet. And this still wasn’t even it. I was in a cushy college program in an incredibly safe city. But I took the day off! And I left the apartment to wander! By myself! And the best part about it? While strolling past the businessmen and women, all lost in their thoughts of schedules and meetings, I disappeared into the crowd. No one cared a hoot that I was in my jeans and a sweatshirt, looking like a schlub, with nowhere to go. No one cares because it was Monday, and everyone rushes on Monday.
I ended up getting delightfully lost, discovering a very cheap ballet student rush deal, eating a heavenly bowl of soup, writing in a new journal, and then immediately rediscovering my road home after I left the cafe. I never panicked, never looked at the time, and never dealt with the crowds of the weekend. I felt like a truly free and anonymous stranger. And as an introvert- this is heaven.
While I was temping and auditioning in NYC from 2010-2014, I had many a day like this, usually by accident. It was often when I could’t find work that I would pick a neighborhood to explore simply to get myself away from my computer. Obsessive job hunting is only effective for a certain amount of time a day. One of my favorite things to do was pick a mom-and-pop’s coffee shop in a business area and watching the crowds go by. Once most of the city disappears into their boxes, other people emerge. The babysitters, the dog walkers, the tourists, the trust funders, and of course, the other freelancers. There are more of us than you think. If you believe that working outside an office isn’t common way of life, go check out Starbucks at 11am on a Tuesday. You won’t get a seat.
As much as I needed a full-time job by the time things fell into place, I miss my freelance mornings. There is a time of day you simply miss when you work a 9-5, and unfortunately for my actual career, it is my most productive time of the day. But alas, this is reality, and I am happy to have income. Turns out you can’t always tap dance your loans away.
The next time you have an extra vacation or sick day, or can afford to take a day off, here are some recommendations:
- I highly recommend choosing a Monday. There is an energy about skipping on Monday that feels like you’ve beaten the system. Run free!
- Find a way to get outside, perhaps to a neighborhood or park you’ve never explored, and just sit. Sit with a muffin, some coffee, and a good book. Or hell, sit with a beer.
- Remember this is a day to break away from your labels. You don’t have to be your job, your career, your plans, your shopping list, your car problems, or your budget. You’re just in schlubby clothes, sitting on a bench. It’s an important reminder that our patterns can be broken within reason, without consequence.
- Look up! Without the crowds of a holiday, walk slowly and check out the details you’ve been missing.
- Feed your mind with a book, a movie, or some time writing. It is a leisure activity to rejuvenate your mind at the same time.
One of my ultimate financial goals is to regain my freelance mornings. I miss them, though I am very grateful for a friendly and consistent place to work. Until then, I will cherish my occasional “Mental Monday” and be that crazy lady feeding the pigeons in the park.