This is the exchange we’ve been having for the last few weeks at the start of each day, whether or not it’s Saturday. (We started with, “Happy retirement,” but that didn’t last long.)
Sometimes, on actual Saturdays, we say, “Happy weekend” instead, but what that really means is: Meh.
Let’s Start By Talking About Saturdays
For our entire lives, Saturdays have been the day of magical promise. Untainted by the Sunday Blues that follow, and not infected by mandatory work and email (or school work and attendance before that) like the weekdays. Even when we had to do work on Saturdays, it was rarely on the same kind of timeline that a weekday would mandate. Usually it was just to get someone something at some point. And if it was homework that needed doing, well that could surely wait until Sunday. (Or, erm, Sunday night. Late night.)
More than any other day of the week, those precious Saturday hours belonged to us alone, a feeling surely shared by the millions who work or go to school on a Monday through Friday schedule.
We spent all these years looking forward to a life full of more Saturdays, and now we’re here. We have nothing but Saturdays in front of us. Each day is essentially like the one before it and the one after it, except that some days I need to write a blog post, and other days Mark has volunteer board meetings.
But even though we’re still only about two months into early retirement, we’ve already noticed something odd about days and time.
The flow of days makes far less sense when you’re not punching a clock or serving clients when they’re at the office. Suddenly weekdays and weekends blur together, and the thought that someone would answer your email one day but not the next feels arbitrary, a little ridiculous even. The idea that stores don’t open and close at the same time every day, or that you might have to wait 64 hours to speak to a human at your health insurance company — none of it makes sense anymore.
And those magical Saturdays, the day that always gave us a jolt of hope that something amazing (and not work-related) would happen? Can I be honest?
Retirement has kinda ruined Saturdays.
Not the days themselves — they’re just days, after all. But the magic is suddenly gone. And with it, our perception of the meaning of a day.
Saturdays Are Magical — Until They’re Not
Saturday is Shabbat for some, a work day for others, a day of errands and emotional labor for still more, and the magical day for the rest of us. (Of course, that’s a recent thing, too, following the passage in the 1930s of the Fair Labor Standards Act, driven by the labor unions, which made the 40-hour workweek — and weekends — the law.)
And for those of us for whom Saturdays carry that magic, we invest ourselves in that. We come to rely on that magic, that hope, that sense of open-ended possibility that no other day of the week can offer.
But when, suddenly, every day is Saturday, the magic disappears. With no yang of the weekdays, the yin of the weekends has no power. So though we are still very much in love with early retirement, there is a small part of us that mourns the loss of that magic that was made possible entirely by the contrast with other days of the week.
Oh, and there’s one more thing:
Saturdays are actually our least favorite day of the week now.
Not because we miss the magic, but for more practical reasons. Everything is full of people on Saturdays. I made the mistake of going grocery shopping down the hill in Reno last Saturday, and I won’t repeat it. While working, I almost always shopped after getting off a plane, which was nearly always on weekdays, and somehow never learned how much worse Saturdays are for shopping and errands. Lesson learned.
And all the stuff that drew us to the mountains — skiing, hiking, biking, paddling — is worse on Saturdays, too. On a powder day (not that we’ve gotten many of those in this super warm and back-to-the-drought year) that happens to fall on a Saturday, forget about even making it down the highway to the ski resorts. The traffic clogs the roads so early that it’s a crawl at best, and a complete standstill at worst. And we can’t ski the resorts on Saturday or Sunday, even if we want to, thanks to the Squaw/Alpine bronze pass getting even more restrictive this year. Even without snow, the trailhead parking lots are full, the beaches are packed and the climbing walls are all occupied.
Which sounds a lot like complaining about a day that is the best day of the week for a great many people. It’s like dissing everyone’s favorite movie. And this isn’t that at all. It’s sharing the surprising observation at how quickly we can go from loving, needing, craving and relishing Saturdays to preferring any other day of the week to them.
You wily, shape-shifting beast, Saturday. We knew you as one thing, but really you were another. We were attached to an illusion.
Life Now: Zombie Apocalypse Saturdays
Other than Saturdays, which we mostly spend at home to avoid crowds who are out and about, we live our lives a lot more peacefully now. That grocery shopping experience last weekend was probably all the more jarring because we’ve already gotten so used to empty stores. (A far cry from our old days in West LA, when Whole Foods Parking Lot rang true in every possible way.)
And I’ve started calling our days our zombie apocalypse Saturday. Because we’re doing what feel like weekend things — going to movies, skiing, going to the grocery store — but with almost no one around.
The Surprising Malleability of Time — and the Switcheroo
I love how you can think about something every day for years, and write hundreds of thousands of words about it, doing your best to examine it from every possible angle. And yet, when you get there, you can still get blindsided almost instantly by something that feels incredibly obvious after the fact, but which you never anticipated.
I never expected to lose the Saturday magic — or to miss it. I never ever expected to almost resent Saturdays, for being the days with fewer options than all the rest.
And — to point the finger at a different day of the week — I never ever ever expected to love Mondays. Sure, I’d heard other early retirees who got here before we did express their love for their former weekday nemesis, and I thought, “Oh, it must just be because you used to hate Mondays, so the absence of hate feels like love.”
But I was wrong. It’s more than that. For me at least, Mondays now capture some of that old Saturday magic. We’re not stuck at home waiting for the crowds to clear out. We’re not avoiding travel on the weekend while rates are highest. We’re not unable to check practical things off our list because other people are actually working and responding.
Mondays are the day when we return to infinite possibility. When we can venture back into the world without battling the masses (really just wasting a lot of time waiting in line or in traffic). When we don’t have to pay a premium to do whatever it is we want to do.
Which makes every Monday a relief. The start of a new stretch of days that are completely ours to spend as we wish, not to feel constrained, or even just like we’d rather not go out.
What a crazy switcheroo, and it happened like THAT. Our whole lives we love Saturdays and despise Mondays, and them BOOM. They trade places in an instant.
Don’t Aim for More Saturdays, Aim for the Best Kind of Mondays
We still greet each other with “Happy Saturday,” despite the day losing its glow. We refuse to give up that Saturday magic, and are holding onto it in our own way, by making every day Saturday in our minds.
Of course, every day isn’t actually Saturday, so our silly little morning charade isn’t necessarily something to aim for. If I could go back in time and drop some knowledge on myself of a few years ago — or even a few decades ago — I would say this:
Don’t get so attached to Saturdays. Don’t aim for more of them. Instead, create a life in which you can live out the best kind of Mondays. Or, better yet, don’t get attached to the days at all. Aim for the magic, the possibility, the wide open canvas of unrestricted time. Because everything you feel about the days now will change overnight.
We’re just beginning this next life of ours, and just over 50 days in, I clearly haven’t learned all the wisdom there is to be learned from it — or maybe any of it, beyond this. But it’s both disorienting and wonderful to watch this immediate change happen in our perception of time and days and what’s possible when.
And I can’t wait to see what else early retirement has to teach me.
Let’s Talk Days and Time!
Have you ever experienced something like this, perhaps during a break from work or school? Or are you like me and you’ve always been in school or working and never gave your mind a chance to detach fully from the meaning we place on days? Any other similarly mindblowing realizations you’ve come upon in making big life changes? Especially for those who’ve already retired, we’d all love to hear some pearls of wisdom of what comes next. Share in the comments, and let’s discuss!
Categories: we retired early