Perhaps you’ve noticed it too. Time away from work has an utterly different feel from time on the job. Those rare individuals who really love their professions probably feel differently about it, but a timid free spirit since childhood, I’ve always noticed a difference. And it has become more pronounced as time’s gone on. Recently I cashed in a vacation day near a national holiday (Memorial Day) so that I could drive across the state to see my mother without feeling utterly wiped out from a twelve-hour drive on a regular weekend. As I slipped back into work mode on Tuesday the change was palpable. Time was no longer my own. I tend to work well over eight hours daily—the telecommuter must prove his/her worth—and something about the quality of the time itself was decidedly unlike that of the previous four days (two of which had been spent driving).
That quality, of which we’re not encouraged to speak, is the feeling of freedom. More precisely, auto-determination. Okay, I’ve read enough philosophy to know this is just an illusion, but work with me here. Few and exceptionally fortunate are those who find careers they love. What the rest of us love is time off work. Time when we can decide what to do. How long to sleep. When to cut the grass rather than waiting until the bell rings at 5 p.m. and the inevitable afternoon rain begins. Perhaps best of all is going to bed knowing that the next day you don’t have to get up and report for duty. I’m not dissing employment here, I’m just noticing something. What I’m reaching toward is a concept of sacred time. Unstructured time in which creative types thrive.
Early in life the concept of summer was instilled in my soft and malleable psyche. It said once May was over you have three months to do whatever before facing regimentation again. I grew to appreciate this schedule. To love it, in fact. It was part of why I decided higher education was the best vocational fit for someone of my particular disposition. Every year when June rolls around I still feel it, like a migratory bird. The reality, however, is the quality of time changes on Monday morning. It slows down and feels more like sandpaper than silk. I can see there’s a holiday just a month away, if I can only reach it. And it is, perhaps with a dose of unintentional irony, call Independence Day.