Let me tell you about Sundays.
Sundays are terrific. You can run errands or be lazy. You can go to church or sleep in. You can watch a game or read a book. You can eat brunch or work out. You can do nothing at all—or all of the above!
In case it isn’t obvious from that ringing endorsement, I like Sundays. I don’t want anything else that I’m about to say make it seem like my love for Sundays is lacking. I refuse to be pigeonholed as some kind of anti-Sunday zealot!
Disclaimers notwithstanding, I’ve always had a very particular problem with Sundays. Ever since I was a little boy, Sundays—specifically, Sunday evenings—have been unfailingly accompanied by what might best be called . . . a mild sense of dread.
Whether when I was in school (even when I liked school) or when I was working (even when I liked my job), there was this tiny feeling of tension, invariably spawned when the shadows grew long and the sun began to disappear into the horizon. The darkness was a signal that I would have to think about responsibilities again in a few, short hours.
Sometimes that feeling could properly be called “worry,” but not often. Monday’s obstacles weren’t necessarily things I didn’t want to face. Even when I relished those challenges, that Sunday-night feeling was still there.
Most of the time, it was merely the awareness of constraint. Of a lack of freedom. Or, at least, a lack of preference. It was the knowledge that, come Monday morning, I would rather be somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else.
My mom used to talk about this a lot when I was growing up. She dreaded Sunday nights, too. She was a public-school speech pathologist, and she enjoyed her work and cherished the fact that she was able to help children.
Even so, there was something about Sunday nights that created a knot in her stomach.
Like I said, I’ve been that same way for as long as I can remember. Even when I was playing football, which I loved, and I knew Monday meant getting back out to practice, Sunday nights carried with them that subtle recognition of foreboding.
Now that I think about it, football or not, fall was actually the worst. The days would start getting shorter. The earlier, colder nights meant the reminder of an impending Monday morning happened sooner and sooner each week. No matter the season, though, Sunday would come, and so would that understated anxiousness.
That was every Sunday.
Every single one.
Now, let me tell you about last Sunday.
It was the most wonderfully, delightfully, refreshingly uneventful Sunday possible. No responsibilities. No obligations. No duties. Nowhere to be. Nothing to do. Total, blissful freedom.
Yet, when I looked at the clock sometime around five in the afternoon, with several hours of daylight yet to go, I found myself thinking, “I wish this day would hurry up and end so I could get back to the office and work on that piece some more.”
This wasn’t a moment of deep contemplation. It was an off-the-cuff, top-of-my-head, epiphanic revelation anchored in pure, unfiltered, instinctive honesty.
Suddenly, Sunday was no longer a slow descent into simmering doom, but, rather, a steady build of eager anticipation—anticipation—for Monday morning.
How is this possible?
Making a career change in my 30s wasn’t something I did without a lot of thought. That’s an understatement. I spent four years longer than I should have working up the guts to make that change.
Ok, fine. Six years.
The point is that you would think that painstaking, glacial introspection would at least provide definitive and complete conclusions about the direction of my life, my career, and my goals. I certainly thought it had.
I knew I wanted to write. I knew I loved writing. I knew my dream was to write for a living. I knew (eventually) that pursuing that goal would mean moving to a major city.
I figured all of that out. And I was right about all of it. But, even after being hired in D.C., it took me almost three more years to realize that achieving that kind of gig was still only half of the ultimate answer to the question I had been asking myself my entire adult life.
“What do you want to do?”
It wasn’t just that I wanted to get paid enough to write as a full-time career. The second component was that I wanted to find a situation in which I could truly help someone else grow as a writer—while that person also did the same for me. A situation in which someone would push me to maximize whatever talent I had and sharpen my skills to the fullest possible extent of my ability while I simultaneously played some role in helping that person’s journey to becoming an exceptional writer.
Sometimes, you don’t realize you’re looking for something until the moment you find it.
When you do, every day—every single day—suddenly has the legitimate potential to be a new, all-time best. Just like the quality of your work does. Just like you do.
That’s only possible under the right conditions. Trust. Talent. No ego. Rapport. An innate, powerful desire for self-improvement.
If you’re astoundingly lucky, you’ll find yourself in that situation once in your life.
And you’ll realize how fortunate you are, because you’ll also know that almost everyone else in the world will go their whole lives without ever finding it.
See, there’s the job, and, then, there’s the work. The craft. The art. Ultimately, that’s the pursuit. That’s the reason we devote everything we have to whatever we believe our purpose to be.
That’s also why that little feeling never paid me a visit this past weekend. I suspect I won’t feel it again for a very long time.
That’s because, when I looked at that clock last Sunday, I finally understood why I started writing in the first place.
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