Blah Blah Blog
By Wendy Weinstein
Is this what they call a sabbatical?
Five weeks ago, the government shut down my hair salon. At first I was pretty upset that the government considered my business to be non-essential. All of my hairdresser friends were also freaking out, because we know the impact we have on our clients. The thought of being dismissed as non-essential really pissed us off.
Not to mention, closing us down meant canceling every single client, every single day, and having no idea when or how we would be able to return to work. My schedule, thanks to my very loyal clients, has always been booked one month out, and the thought of having to fit everyone in when we return was a little overwhelming.
After giving up my non-essential ego bullshit, I decided I needed to figure out what I was going to do for two weeks, which is how long Gov. Wolf said we were going to be shut down.
I own a four-apartment rental property, and – prior to the shut-down – was in the midst of renovating one of the units for a new tenant with an April 1st move-in date. My contractor friend John Westcott, who helps me with every project I ask him to do, was finishing up with the renovations but we were running out of time.
The shut-down changed that. Suddenly, we were getting done what needed to get done. With every trip to Home Depot, I kept thinking what a gift it turned out to be, getting the two weeks off.
Then the lockdown got extended till April 15th. Then May 1st. And I was thinking, “The apartment’s all done. Now what? I have four more weeks of nothing.”
I wrote a list of all the things that I’d been wanting to do but had always pushed to the side for “when I have some time.” And I decided then and there that I didn’t want to waste the time I suddenly had off. If I was forced to close, it was pointless to feel guilty about not working or not staying late, or stressed about having to come in early for anyone. I started to realize that this lockdown thing wasn’t so bad.
Obviously, this time is not good for many people. It breaks my heart that there are people having to deal with this crisis without access to adequate health facilities, or the right protection. That some people lost a lot of money in the stock market. That there are businesses that will not reopen, after years of service, and that my friends who are still working seem to be working harder than ever.
And so I sometimes feel bad that I am loving this time off.
But then I remember that I have never, in my forty years of being a hairstylist, had this much time off. Ever. My life has been one big schedule: I need to be on time. I need my clients to be on time. I need to accommodate that special client at 9:30am, even though my workday doesn’t start for another hour. Or I’m waiting for that last client who got stuck on the Schuylkill and doesn’t show up till almost 8pm. I usually don’t get out of work until it’s dark, and I’ve never had four Saturdays off in a row. Never.
These days, I don’t have to wake up with an alarm. If I plan on doing anything, I don’t start until noon. I can wear sweatpants and no makeup and not worry about looking unprofessional. I listen to only the music I like, walk in the park on a Wednesday, and cook dinner every night with my friend who is quarantining with me. And I eat meals in a relaxed way, sitting down at a real dinner table, just like when I was a kid.
I started a blog that I never had time to start before. I made a how-to video that I was always afraid of doing. I’m cleaning up my house. Painting the salon. Keeping in contact with people and taking care of my dog, Dean Martin, who has no idea why we’re home so much.
I keep thinking that this is what a sabbatical must be like: You’ve worked hard for a long time, and now you get a little break. You know you’re gonna go back to work, sometime, but it’s really great to not be working.
If I had to work tomorrow I wouldn’t be up at 3:14am writing this, which is the time right now. Or maybe I would be, but I’d be dreading how tired I was going to be for my first client.
Thank God that my bank – FirsTrust – came to the rescue in helping me figure out to make it through this time financially. I know that, had they not, I wouldn’t be this relaxed and able to keep my mind focused on the things I’m taking care of.
The governor’s office says we might be allowed to return to work by May 8th – which I now think is too soon. Not just because my job doesn’t allow me to be six feet apart, but because I still have so much to do.
So I’ve made a decision: I’m not ending this unexpected – and unexpectedly wonderful – sabbatical until at least June 1st.