It’s Saturday night and my phone screen lights up again as friends try to convince me to go out dancing with them. It’s been an insanely long week. I’m on contract work at the moment, and that means a rewarding job…at the price of relaxation. I’m in Washington, D.C. for a job which consists of 85 hours a week of supervising middle school students. Typically I live in Dallas, where my family is from, but recently I’ve been working for a conference company as a contract employee. I serve as a faculty advisor to a set of scholars and guide them through different discussions and simulations to help develop their leadership skills. Contracting is new for me, but after a year-and-a-half of fruitless job hunting I’ve been exploring more unconventional opportunities for work. In the last two weeks I’ve worked over 170 hours and taken a group of 17 scholars all over the city — in and out of museums, around the U.S. Capitol, within the memorials. While it’s rewarding to mentor students who still believe that they can change the world without seeing any of the difficulties in it, it’s also highly stressful to be responsible for the safety of those scholars in a crowded city during the height of tourist season.
I finished the job on Friday, so am currently avoiding offers to go out and in favor of surveying the recipe I’ve picked out for the evening. Rarely do I actually choose to cook, but in this instance, I’ve been looking forward to picking out my own meal for weeks, since when I’m on the job all food is provided. Free food saves money, but it also means that at the end of the job I’m so sick of the equivalent of dorm food, it’s not even funny. To celebrate, I went online looking for a good pasta recipe — ultimate comfort food since I’ve been craving a pink sauce. Armed with the recipe, I’d gone to the store for ingredients and even snagged a bottle of Yellowtail Shiraz on sale. It’s not my favorite, but is decent enough since I’m on a budget, after all.
Now, I’m in yoga pants and a sweater — also an indulgence since the conference comes with a dress code. It’s not normal for a mid-twenties single girl to be staying in on a Saturday night and my friends don’t hesitate to let me know it. Yet, I’ve been looking forward to this evening for weeks — coming back to it in my thoughts when the stress and the noise begin to overwhelm me. When you work a job that consumes your life, there’s nothing like getting to take a step back and have a quiet evening in, which is why I’m standing in the kitchen with the bottle of wine airing on the counter, cutting onions, my eyes tearing up a little bit, instead of heading out on the town. The house where I’m staying is quiet while my friend is visiting her partner up in Philly. Since I typically live at home with my parents, having an entire place to myself was a temptation I couldn’t resist. It also ended up being cheaper to spend my week-long break here in D.C. rather than fly home.
I’m humming to myself as I start cooking and pour a glass of wine. To me, this is the definition of letting go. I’m a little bit of a control freak, so going out to bars and clubs can be stressful, even when in the company of good friends. I tend to be drawn more to happy hour or quiet dinners out, but in this instance I’m totally committed to staying in and having my own time. Grabbing my phone, I text my friend back and decline, politely, before turning it off — a rare decision, but one that guarantees me an evening free of interruption. I pour the heavy cream into the sauce, drain the pasta that’s been cooking to the perfect “al dente” consistency, and make myself a big bowl. I top off the wine in my glass and head toward the couch, grabbing the remote controls on the way.
As I settle in and put my feet up, I smile to myself. Staying in might not be normal, or even desired, for many people, but for me it’s the perfect way to celebrate a new paycheck and a weekend without a new group of students coming in. Reruns of The Big Bang Theory are and I select the channel, excited to relax with some comedy before turning in for an early night to catch up on some of the sleep I’ve lost over the past week.