Not working has allowed me to thumb my nose at daily routines and to indulge in my natural night-crawling tendencies.
My suspicions that the nighttime is the right time were aroused back in fourth grade, when I got in trouble after being caught at my desk well after midnight, drawing a detailed map of Canada and all its provinces. Not a school assignment, mind you, just something I felt like doing in the middle of the night.
In college, I figured out once and for all that my body’s Circadian rhythm is backwards vis-à-vis those of nearly everyone else. In college, this is not a problem; studying or partying all night long is normal. Once you graduate, however, you’re supposed to leave behind the foolish things of youth and join the rise-with-sun Puritan work ethic-inspired life of the business world.
Fortunately for me, I found a way around this problem by securing employment in an industry that never sleeps in the city that never sleeps. Working in the composition rooms of various New York publishers and print shops, I got to work the swing or graveyard shifts for more years than a sane person probably should. In the short days of winter, I remember going weeks at a time without seeing the sun. This did not bother me in the least. I am not one of those people who draws energy from the sun and suffers from seasonal affective disorder from Halloween to the first day of spring. I’d probably be successful in the north of Alaska, where for half the year you don’t have to worry about the sun getting in your eyes.
I found that working at night does have its advantages. You end up working with a bunch of other caffeinated night punks, most of whom are just as crazy as you are. Likely as not, your coworkers may be doing something else during the day (other than sleeping), such as attending school, working another job or caring for children. Night work also seems to attract a variety of creative types. In my first job out of college, I spent several months as a team with another young guy, the two of us doing photo output of galleys under the red lights of the darkroom all night long. He was from El Salvador and tried to teach me Spanish while I tried to teach him French. We were both writers and regularly critiqued each other’s poetry, often translating it into other languages.
There were disadvantages, too. When I worked the swing, some of my coworkers would say that getting off shift at midnight was still early enough to do anything but go out to dinner. This is not true, of course. You couldn’t wait for hours at DMV to renew your driver’s license, nor could you waste time and money at the department stores, nor could you visit Barnes & Noble or the public library. As for going out to dinner, well, back east the diners are all open 24 hours a day, so a young guy or woman with a big appetite can get a full meal when he or she gets off shift at one or seven in the morning. I thought I was cool when I’d order dinner while everyone else was eating breakfast.
Eventually, I found my way to California and one of the big phone companies, also a 24/7 operation, and fit right into the all-night groove where I knew I belonged. There I met my wife, another inveterate night owl, while working the overnight shift. ‘Twas a match made in heaven. I’d like to say that we had a 2 a.m. wedding by the light of the silvery moon, but I would not be telling the truth. City Hall wasn’t open at that hour.
For the past eight or nine years, however, I have been working regular 8 to 5 type hours at businesses that are only open in the daytime. You can get used to almost anything, but it’s as unnatural to me as working in the wee, small hours of the morning probably is to you. The fact is that I have always slept better in the daytime. When the sun rises, just pull those curtains closed and I’m off to the land of winkin’, blinkin’ and nod.
Now that we’ve moved in with family in northern California, I feel an obligation to be awake during at least some of the daytime hours in order to interact with said family when they are up and about. Accordingly, I try to get to bed somewhere between two and three a.m. This makes it likely that I’ll be lucid before noon.
Saturday, for example, I knew I had to be ready by noon to attend my nephew’s singing competition. The rest of the family was at a birthday party, and I agreed to go so that he’d have someone in the family to support him. (He went on to the next round. More about that later in the week.) Sunday, I managed to drag my ass out of bed in time to attend church, after which I went out to lunch with my wife and her mother, sister and little grandniece. As soon as we returned from lunch, however, it was nap time for me. I could barely keep my eyes open. I planned to catch a couple of hours of Zs and rejoin the family in the evening. I woke up six hours later.
I’m hoping that my next gig is not only remote work that I can do from wherever I happen to be, but also results-oriented work that I can slave away at during the deep, dark, beautiful hours when the rest of the world is asleep and it’s just me and my music, with my fingers typing at top speed and my brain firing on all cylinders. Inquiries from clients in Asia and Australia will be answered promptly via email or Skype.