Having grown up in a small tourist town in Northern Michigan, Memorial Day weekend has always been a different experience for me and mine. Tawasians don’t leave town for three-day weekends. Not only are we already in the kind of place most of the country is escaping to, but often, we work on Memorial Day. A town can’t close down when half the state is visiting. Plus, there’s invariably some parade of indiscernible tone happening that you have to be in or organize or attend.
So it has always felt odd to me, as an adult living elsewhere, when the last weekend of May is upon us and everyone stops working and leaves town. Especially now, as a freelancer, I am especially lost about what to do. No one is paying me to take the day off. I don’t have plans. So I’d just as soon work. But I don’t work in a vacuum. As much as freelance writing can seem like a solitary endeavor, I need to do interviews, email editors and sources, and generally be a person interacting with people. So when all of those people are being paid to not be at work, it’s difficult to know what to do with myself. Nothing that’s going to pay much, that’s for sure.
But as it turns out, the inability to do much work that pays makes Memorial Day–and Labor Day and Veteran’s Day and MLK Day, etc.–an opportunity. The common lament of freelancers is that we never have the time to do the things we’re passionate about, as opposed to the things paying our bills. The things that are always on our minds, but never on our to-do lists: working on that book, drafting personal essays, crafting pitches for new publications, reimagining the website.
It is tempting, I admit, to just take the day off. Everyone else is doing it. I deserve it–or, at least, I deserve it as much as anyone else does. But these days, when three-day weekends roll around I try to do two things. First, I genuinely enjoy and relax for at least one of the weekend days: no computer, no emails. That doesn’t always happen on regular weekends. Secondly, I spend at least one, if not two, of the remaining days focusing on just one of things I always want to be doing but don’t. It might not be a day on the beach, but it’s refreshing and rejuvenating in a not entirely different way.
There are about eight three-day weekends in the U.S., depending on which holidays you count. Spending eight days a year on something isn’t much, and if you have multiple things on your fantasy to-do list, the time goes even less far. But it’s more than zero days, which is how much time we freelancers are often able to dedicate to the things we care about doing the most. So Happy Memorial Day. May you make small progress on some big ideas.