My First Experience with the "9 to 5"

As a Cal-in-Sacramento intern this summer, I have experienced my first taste of the life of a working professional under the structure of “the 9 to 5,” a phrase that turns casual the weight of a forty-hour workweek. To many this experience is rather unremarkable, but to a college student who is used to part-time employment with flexible hours – it is an entirely new world.

I spend a majority of my day in one place – as opposed to the constantly changing stimuli provided in the past by summer days. This means that from the moment my foot reaches my doorstep when I arrive home from work, I take on a new race – one against time to see how much I can squeeze out of the space between the end of the work day and the end of the night. A forty hour work week imposes constraints on how you spend the remaining free time you are left with. I’ve had to be creative in trying to fit my entire agenda of recreational reading and media consumption, hobbies, social engagements, and personal development into each day, and through these efforts have discovered a new culture of leisure. Post-work happy hours are not simply social engagements – but a place to get cheap and early dinners. While initially I used my lunch breaks as a time to socialize with coworkers, I now value it as personal time to read by myself or be alone with my thoughts. With the limited free time available after I get home from work – I have become far more proactive in budgeting and scheduling my hours. Every move I make is weighed against its costs and benefits.

Because a number of activities I deem necessary to my daily routine, my amount of flexible free time is shortened further. Once I finish exercising and eating dinner – I’ve already used about half of my non-working, non-sleeping hours of the day. I’m left having to decide which of my interests is most deserving of being explored. Should I be social or in solitude? Can I turn my solitary activities into social ones to kill two birds with one stone? Is leisurely reading something I want to do on my own time or only during my lunch breaks at work? Do I have time to learn a new skill? Is sleep necessary? If I don’t sleep too much, how much more could I get done? Each question is considered, and my answers change from day to day. All these decisions imposed by the requirements of one’s workweek make it that much more important to find a job that you enjoy. Because despite the restrictions work places on your free time, when you identify with your work you would not dare purposefully forgo a second of that precious time between 9 and 5.

Pranav Trewn is a UC Berkeley junior studying economics and education. He is interning at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.