It’s difficult to tell in this snap, but it’s really quite nice out for March in Massachusetts. Not exceptionally nice like it was on Wednesday, but nice enough. A bit of a cool breeze, temperatures in the high fifties at 9:30 in the morning, clouds, and a bit of sun. It’s the sort of weather that makes me feel like all hope is not lost. Winter will end, the Earth is not dead, and I don’t have to be a crazy shut-in who only talks to her cats. A change is blowing in with the wind and I feel good.
But, for as good as I feel when Spring is knocking on the door, there are still things that bother me: Americans, for example, work too much. I think we’re pretty much insane for working such long hours. I say this despite being a bit of a workaholic: I’ve been known to only take breaks during the work day because someone placed a sandwich in front of me and said ‘Bex, you need to eat something.’ (Not too often, but it’s happened more than once.) Regardless, people work too much.
A few years ago I had a temp job that got me up before the sun, and didn’t let me out until after it had set. It was winter, so this wasn’t all that difficult, but, still, it was the most depressing thing I’ve ever experienced. Except when I looked around the office at the people who actually worked there: there were employees who where already in the office when I arrived. As the sun was rising over the Atlantic, they were already on calls with clients and customers. These same people were still on calls when I left an hour after the sun had set way beyond the Berkshires. Another temp and I rode the elevator together at the end of one day and we asked each other “How the fuck do they do this?” This life was for neither she nor I.
Now, I’m not trying to be insulting or make anyone feel badly about their job. If I have, I apologize. A person is allowed to love their job, or choose to be at work before the sun’s up and stay until after it’s down. This is not a criticism of individuals, but of the system. America seems to value working long hours and not taking breaks; and we are conditioned to expect to be punished for taking breaks while trapped indoors during prime tanning hours. It starts in school when we can see the beautiful weather but are forced to stay inside. Therefore, as adults we accept being trapped in cubicles, chained to desks, stuck in windowless rooms with bad lighting and poorly regulated air conditioning. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised yesterday.
I’ve picked up some hours tagging and folding shirts in a warehouse. It’s a pain, literally, to stand at a table and fold tee shirts all day, but it’s not the least exciting work I’ve ever done (that would be that temp job in the sales office). Nor is it the most difficult. It is physically taxing, but so was environmental ed. and summer camp. It might be a bit more physically taxing because I’m older now and I’ve already put my body through years of environmental ed. and summer camp, but it’s nothing I’m not familiar with. The other people who work there are pleasant, and there’s a window so we can see if it’s sunny or rainy. In the afternoons, the older ladies who work there are replaced by a group of teenagers coming off their school day.
Yesterday, two of the boys were talking at the table behind me. One asked the other why he wasn’t in school or at work the day before, the extremely nice day for March in Massachusetts. The boy said simply that he had stayed home. He told school he was “sick”, but in reality it was just that it was nice out and he spent his day outdoors. The other teens were amazed and surprised. One girl couldn’t believe his audacity. I, however, couldn’t help being extremely proud. This kid, all of sixteen or seventeen, understood that Wednesday was a Beautiful Day, and that Beautiful Days are meant to be enjoyed. He’d even decided that this Beautiful Day was meant to be enjoyed out of doors. The other teens went on and on about how crazy he was, but I couldn’t help but be impressed this kid chose his mental health over his attendance record, his grades, and a paycheck. This kid has his priorities in order.
Take care of your mental health people, it’s more important than we Americans realize.