I am an expert in the field of Mondays. I know all about them. I’ve lived through a couple real toughies. The thing about Mondays is that it takes us away from our free time and family time. It’s the less than grandiose welcoming of what, for most of us, will be a long week of tough jobs, gas lights, electricity bills, homework, and cooking meals you have no energy to eat let alone prepare. (I lost the battle with my freshman fifteen the minute I realized eating ice cream from the tub demanded significantly less effort than making myself toast or eggs or basically anything that requires more than a spoon*).
*I did eventually get the eating habits under control and now, independently and of my own accord, maintain a mostly balanced diet. Adulthood doesn’t come with one leap – baby steps.
But this last year has been pretty “Monday” free. Maybe this is because I love my job or maybe because the hardest day of the week for me is consistently Thursdays so Mondays are more of a light-weight in the ring.
I was definitely due for a hair-pulling, teeth-grating, hand-wringing, gut-churning Monday. I got one.
Context. Context is important, because if we’re really honest with ourselves, Mondays are almost never as bad as we think they are. My context had something to do with a bad Saturday, a week of mild homesickness and a Sunday-afternoon realization that I was more sleep-deprived than was probably fixable at that point.
My plan was to make it through the first part of Monday, then recklessly skip my evening Czech lesson and take a bus to Liberec to spend the night with some friends. I had my backpack ready and my alarm set.
Alarm clocks are a horrible way to start any day of the week. That point should be made clear.
My hand swiftly shut up the buzzer with a smack and then repeated the same action every six minutes for the next hour. I don’t know why it took me so long to register that I was supposed to be getting up, I just remember “coming to” with the clock snuggled in the crook of my arm under the blankets, buzzing like a radioactive bee hive about ten minutes before my bus was supposed to leave.
Thankfully I’ve been foregoing the make-up these days so I would have been on time had I not briefly glanced at my inbox before running out of the room. Friends from Liberec had to rain-check our plans. I stood in my room with my backpack full and my regular bag empty of everything I need to survive a day in Prague. Transferring my bus pass, passport, wallet, keys, pens and assortment of notebooks only took a few minutes but when I had finished I knew the bus had come and gone.
I waited in the cold (because it’s only ever cold when you’re waiting for a bus) and tried not to feel a little bummed about my cancelled plans. I try not to take things like that personally, but my experiences in high school (and, who are we kidding – college, too) have shaped a social insecurity around whatever internal mechanism controls my emotions.
I got on the bus. Standing room only.
Side note: I realize that feminism has done a lot to further women’s health and well-being. But I would trade my right to vote for the right to a seat on the bus in a second. Like, seriously, I’d have made every man on that tin-tank a sandwich if someone would have just been like, “Here, you look exhausted and are wearing heels. I’m under thirty five and don’t contribute enough to society as it is. Please have my seat.”
Skip ahead to the end of my 45 minute commute. Barely on time, I skid through the hallways and chug through the next four hours of lessons.
Some of it was fine, even enjoyable. Most of it was an odd cross between babysitting and running an asylum, both of which share a common measure of success: don’t let anyone die. In between classes I was doing hand-to-hand combat with the printer (forgot my access code) and desperately trying to fill out end-of-month paperwork which I conveniently left till the last minute because I can’t read any of the reminders in the teacher’s room (my Czech is still a little rough).
So far this still just sounds like a normal Monday, doesn’t it?
By 2:45 I had that numb feeling where everything that happens seems like it make break you into pieces. Occasionally my students will get whipped up for no reason – maybe it’s the weird weather, maybe it’s the promise of Thursday and Friday off this week. Anyways, they pushed all the right buttons that day and my hazard signs and warning bells were shrieking when I collapsed into my office chair. I felt worn down, inexplicably. End of my rope. Bottom of the ladder. Down to my last lollipop. Ready to hit the proverbial fan.
My officemate wished me a good afternoon (“Doubtful,” I thought to myself) and I sat down at the computer ready to make some headway on the Spelling Bee I’ve been organizing for a month that takes place on Wednesday. (To add to the stress of these preparations, I have never been in nor seen an actual spelling bee).
Unable to concentrate, I put my head on the desk. In college I could sleep anytime, anywhere. Once I rolled up underneath a desk in the computer lab of the student newsroom and slept for a half hour. They took pictures.
Naps are part of college culture. Not so much in real life, unfortunately.
But the crick in my neck has been preventing me from sleeping well lately and the head/desk set-up wasn’t working for me so I stretched out on the floor of the empty office, looked at my watch and thought: ten minute power-nap – you can do this.
An hour later, I woke up to the sound of a thick rainfall slapping against the window. I didn’t want to move. Not only did I not feel less tired, but I had wasted a whole hour (on the floor, mind you) and now it was raining – and wouldn’t you know it, my umbrella was tucked into the backpack I left at home.
I gave up on spelling bee prep and left for my Czech lesson. I had received an email the day before about our homework assignment (writing a recipe in Czech) but hadn’t done it, assuming I wouldn’t be at the lesson. On my way to class, I stopped off at a mall to pick up a few things – charger, groceries, etc. I ended up empty-handed on all accounts for various reasons (I stood in front of the toothpaste section for like five minutes before realizing I was never going to decide on a brand and zombie-walked out of the store as inconspicuously as possible).
Needing sustenance, I decided to get a cheap milkshake. But under the stress of – omg, just the day, I panicked, forgot most of my Czech and ended up getting something definitely NOT what I ordered, paying more than what I planned. Whatever.
Important to mention at this point is that I also had a very painful sore on my bottom lip, making talking or eating somewhat cumbersome. Just another straw…
Whatever, right? We all reach that point where we just decide not to care how the day is going.
Walking into the wet street I waited for my tram only to discover that the day before they changed all the tram schedules in the city for the first time in like two years. Of COURSE they did. Universe, WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM??
I finally found a tram to take me to where I needed to go. It was crowded and people were bumping into me in uncomfortable places. Welcome to public transportation, I thought to myself.
Don’t cry in public. Don’t cry in public.
I could feel the tears forming. At this point, I just couldn’t understand why I felt so miserable. Honestly, it’s just a Monday – nothing to cry over.
Inside the lounge of the learning center, my friends and classmates chatted it up about their weekends and holiday plans. I just stared at my blank paper and tried to remember how to write “potatoes” in Czech. My recipe homework was slow moving and we have about four minutes till the start of class.
I got half-way through the ingredients before realizing I wasn’t going to finish, but it wasn’t until I couldn’t figure out how to say “boil” in Czech that I ripped the paper in half and yelled like a pirate who’s been bitten in the ear by his shoulder-parrot.
“You okay?” asked one of the Brits.
I stood up with a pout, nodded, and rushed to the bathroom to compose myself. Half-way through a sob and a pep talk, who should walk into the restroom but my Czech teacher.
“Mary,” she said with a smile only the best teachers know how to use. “Co pak?”
“I ripped up my homework,” I said in with uncharacteristic honesty. She smiled at me.
“That bad, huh?” Then she left. Like it was no big deal. Things happen.
I returned to the lounge as people were cleaning up their bags and getting ready to go into their classrooms.
“You alright, then?” asked the Brit.
“Yeah,” I said. “I get about one 12-year-old moment every four months…You just witnessed my latest.”
“Kind of a mild break-down,” he said with a wink. “Not even any foot-stamping.”
The adults walked into their respective classes after full days at their respective jobs (most of which, I’m sure, are not as fun as mine) and I followed like a scolded puppy, tail between legs.
On the bus ride home (it’s an hour commute back from class, for the record), I took a look at the people around me. Adults. Big people with big problems living in a massive world that doesn’t care about them, that’s what they are.
College doesn’t prep us for stuff like this. We learn how to burn the midnight oil to crank out a paper but then we take naps all afternoon until our next project is almost due. We learn to work in groups, read books (or CliffNotes), and get by on unhealthy, cheap food.
That doesn’t work in the real world. If you are up all night, even for good reasons, you have to be a patient, kind, focused person the next day, all day. You have to take care of yourself. And, gosh darn it, you have to let the little stuff roll off. Because there is so much little stuff in life that it will drag you down before the big stuff even pulls into the parking lot.
Yeah, Mondays are tough sometimes. So are Tuesdays and Thursdays and any other day of the week. Life is tough. “Get a grip,” as my brother once told me.
Currently, I’m an expert in Mondays. But I’ve applied for an internship in adulthood and I’m hoping it’ll turn into a career someday. Baby steps.