It was the nineties. I was stuck in a job that I hated.
Guess what was the worst part of my workweek. If you said Monday mornings, you’re close. It was Sunday nights.
The angst would start bubbling up around dinnertime. During the dark days of winter it would hit me in late afternoon. By nightfall I’d be in the crosshairs of depression.
Lots of people have pre-workweek anxiety. Especially if they never got around to opening that briefcase full of work they optimistically brought home on Friday. But that wasn’t me. I wasn’t unprepared. I didn’t need to become a better planner. I needed a better job. Barring that, I needed a shrink to help me cope with the one I was stuck in.
Fortunately, I had Larry. Larry had talked me off countless ledges over the years, but his solution to my Sunday Night Blues stands out. He asked me a question that changed everything.
“Is there anything fun you’ve ever wanted to do, but you haven’t done yet?”
“I’ve seriously toyed with the idea of killing my boss,” I said.
“Fun and legal,” Larry said, clarifying.
“Well, I’ve always wanted to learn to fly a plane,” I said, getting into the challenge.
“Good. Next Saturday I want you to take a flying lesson.”
“And how will that make my job better?” I asked.
“It won’t. But instead of spending your weekends worrying about Monday morning, you’re going to spend your entire week looking forward to the weekend.”
I had my doubts. But the following Saturday morning I showed up at the Kingston-Ulster Airport — for my first lesson in a Cessna 152.
From the moment I climbed into the cockpit I felt a rush. Twenty minutes later we were 2,500 feet above the Hudson Valley, and my instructor told me to take over the controls.
I flew. Hell, I soared. And by the time we touched down I was hooked.
It’s been twenty years since that flight, so I can’t remember if the high was still with me on Sunday night and I coasted into Monday morning. But I do remember this: I found something that brought me unexpected joy, and I couldn’t wait to do it again.
Pretty soon I was taking four-hour lessons every Saturday. And my instructor gave me plenty of ground-school homework to keep me busy during the week.
I didn’t want to get a pilot’s license. My goal was to solo. And eventually I did. You want to feel good about yourself? Get in a small plane, take it up in the air, and land it safely twenty minutes later. Just you. No co-pilot. I did it. Multiple times. And I couldn’t wait to get into work Monday morning to tell everybody about it.
It was just what the doctor promised. Instead of obsessing about the unhappiest part of my life, I focused on the feel-good stuff.
My bummer job didn’t get any better. But it did stop dragging me down. My weekends were fun, my weekdays were bearable, and a year later I moved on to a job I loved.
So what do you do if your job sucks and you hate to fly? Anything. Restore an old car. Take up the trumpet. Whittle. Anything. Just ask yourself the same question Larry asked me.
And then do it. On a weekend. It will change your life, starting with Sunday nights.
One last mental health note: I’ve been seeing that same shrink for thirty-five years. Recently he told me that I’m starting to get better. I asked him if he still wanted me to keep coming now that his house has been paid off and his four kids have all graduated from college.
“Stick around,” he said. “You never know when I’ll want to renovate the kitchen.”
Originally published at medium.com