There is a shadow world that exists alongside every day existence. You see the people who live there and interact with them on a nearly daily basis, though they aren’t always given anyone’s full attention. I am one of the shadow people and we manage, all the while knowing the world isn’t structured for us.
See, not “everybody’s working for the weekend”. I haven’t caught “a case of the Mondays” in over a decade. It’s the dirty secret of the people who live in the shadow world – not everyone works Monday through Friday from 9a – 5p, or even close. Some people work hours that are nothing like that at all.
We learn to adapt. On Sunday nights when everyone else is bemoaning the end of the weekend we nod along. And if someone points out that I have Monday off I’ve learned not to snap back that my one day off is instead of, not in addition to, the two they just had. Well, most of the time I don’t snap.
But the world assumes that everyone goes to the office on weekdays, gets home for dinner by 7, and has the weekends free. I keep reading that I should go to bed by 11p for optimum health. Half the time I’m not home from work by then. Or what about the single dieting tip that can help you drop ten pounds – don’t eat after 8p? Forget it, I had dinner at 5:30p and won’t be asleep until at least 1a - by 10:30p I need a snack, even if it will make me fat. As a runner I take every workout schedule I’ve ever seen and automatically shift everything by at least one day, and likely by time until it somewhat matches my actual life. Evening classes at the local college aren’t an option, and I’ve missed more barbeques and birthday parties than I can count.
Lots of us live in this shadow world, especially in the glamorous worlds of retail, food service, and entertainment. My work is one of many ‘normal life’ leisure time options and I’m starting my day just as you get home. Those of us who work in the shadow world aren’t often engaged in conversation while we’re on the job, or even always called by name. We’re just there, making life go as smoothly as we can for the ‘regular’ folks.
Now the shadow world isn’t all bad. Weekday matinee movies are cheaper, and less crowded with people who don’t understand the concept of turning their cell phones off. Going to the mall is way easier at 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon than any time on the weekend, and when I get to the gym mid-morning the machines are all empty.
Still living in the shadow world isn’t easy. This year I’ve been so busy helping build a show to bring holiday cheer to all of our patrons that I somehow missed finding any holiday cheer of my own. Right now Christmas seems like a chore, and while I’m lucky enough to get the 25th off I’ll be working all day on the 24th and 26th. I know the 25th isn’t the be-all end-all for everyone, but for too many people in the shadow world it’s just another day to be sacrificed to the career gods, no matter what their beliefs.
So what can you do for the people in the shadow world; what should you do? Most of us in the shadows chose this life, some more willingly than others. We’re always here - working the 24 hour drive thrus, the frighteningly early Black Friday holiday sales, the shows that will end at 10:30p on Christmas Eve so families will be able to create a happy memory. Just, say hello, address us by name when you can, and say thank you all the time. A few extra smiles can add up to a lot of coping. Seeing people truly enjoy what I’m working on makes it easier to tell friends ‘so sorry I can’t come to your game night.’ After all I’ve got work – over here in the shadow world.
***This is my entry for therealljidol this week. As always, lots of other great things are being written over there, stop by if you can.***