I unexpectedly have an hour off today, aside from my regular breaks and lunch. All but one of my second grade students are on a field trip to La Granja (the farm), and that one student is with another teacher who has more kids. So my one hour lunch turned into a nice, long two hour break - during which I decided to blog at school.
And let me say, I don't think I've valued a single hour so much in a long time.
I - like everyone else - have twenty-four hours in my day. I sleep for about six of them, spend one in the morning to get from being asleep to being human (I´m not a morning person), I'm at work for seven, and I commute for two; a total of sixteen hours. Which means I have eight hours left to myself during the day.
Which is a lot. Not a lot of people with full-time jobs or long commutes or families can enjoy having a full third of the day to themselves. Granted, I that's the time I have left over to go to the gym, go running, get groceries, buy other things I need, clean the house, and generally take care of myself. But it also leaves me a decent amount of time for hobbies and entertainment.
Even after the gym and running and grocery shopping and cooking dinner I still have time to play around with my sewing machine and watch a movie or a few episodes of one of the many shows I'm following. So I'm usually at home relaxing and enjoying myself for a good four or five hours in the evening/night. Four or five hours that I pretty much take for granted and don't even notice are flying by.
So why is this one extra, unexpected hour off today so special to me?
Is it because I have class before and after, so a nice break inbetween is appreciated? Is it because I can think about what I would otherwise be doing right now - screaming at twelve second graders for a good half hour - and I'd much rather be doing this?
I think it's because it's just that - unexpected. I wasn't expecting to get it, and when I did, it was a wonderful surprise. Those four or five hours in the evening I spend doing nothing but exactly what I want to be doing in that moment? They're due to me, they're expected. And in being so, in a way they lose their value. Not that I don't appreciate the fact that I get out of work earlier than most, and I have time to do both what I need and want to do in the afternoons. But those free me-time hours in the evening are a given.
If I worked twelve or fourteen hour days (which I did the first year I lived in Rome), an afternoon off - spent at home, eating an ice cream sandwich in front of back-to-back episodes of How I Met Your Mother - would be such a glorious treat! But because that (minus the ice cream sandwich) is a possible variation of many of my weekday evenings, it's not a treat anymore. It's routine. When did I stop appreciating just how amazing my day-to-day schedule is?
How long do we have to keep getting something good for it to stop being special and start being expected?