You have two options when, the night before your 6am shift, you find you cannot sleep.
One: You can try to fight it. You can lay in bed with your eyes shut tight, attempting to meditate your mind clear as it drifts away a thousand directions away from sleep. You can curse yourself for the way you’ll feel tomorrow–and curse again because you know the anxiety your feeling at losing sleep is only causing you to lose more sleep. You can toss and turn, until finally, if you are lucky, your body shuts off and you catch just a few hours before your alarm jars you awake too soon.
Two: You can give in. Now, giving in is not so easy when you share a bed, and I’ll admit this is the first time I’m trying it. In the old days, I’d lift myself out of bed with no more than a resigned sigh, knowing it was going to be “one of those nights,” and getting on with it. I’d pull out a book, or more often, my computer, and furiously type away until a real tired came over me. And then, I’d sleep hard those last few hours, and awake as if I’d lost very little sleep at all.
Now, I’m settling for typing on my phone, and hoping that my partner doesn’t wake up and scold me for staying up late when I’m on the opening shift. He’s never had a problem falling asleep–not more than once or twice in his life–and he doesn’t understand. There is no fighting it. It just is how you are.
Now, I could write about a hundred things as this moment. Why, just a minute ago I was contemplating what an economic solution for peace might look like in the world (hint: it starts with living and rhymes with rage). Before that, I was thinking of how the social constraint of the male gender can be traced as the root cause of most rapes, violent crimes, and instances of mental illness in men. Before that, I think I might have been mulling over the inevitability of everyone I love dying.
But I suppose that wouldn’t really be getting at the root of my sleeplessness–the true cause of my affliction. You see, I’ve noticed a pattern in my sleeping habits, and most notably, I know that I have trouble sleeping when I do not feel fulfilled.
Which would explain why I’ve had no trouble in the past few months, leading up to and during my trip to California. I was in motion–everything I was doing was for a purpose: to make the next big step in my life.
So it would make sense that after I got the apartment, the bike, the job, the room decorated, I would have my first night of sleeplessness.
I should explain that the job I got was a service job. Not a “this is what I went to college for” job, but a “this is how I’ll pay my rent and loans,” job. And it’s a great job. I’m having fun so far, and for what I’m doing the pay is good.
But I’m at that age where “extended moratorium” should be coming to an end. The time for exploring my identity is over, and my ideas of who I am and what I will be should solidify. In theory, that is. But truth be told, it has not, and I am very doubtful at this time that it ever will. Hence, the cause of my anxiety.
Because exploring your identity is like constantly being in a state of adolescence–which you may remember is a time marked by its distinct feelings of inadequacy and discomfort. And the idea that is will never end bring with it another set of anxieties and insecurities.
I feel a lot of pressure to define myself as a “coffee person” since that is what I happen to be doing. And I do it very well. That’s not my ego talking–I’ve just been doing this job and long time and have learned it with the same enthusiasm I approach everything else with.
But it’s not what I love, and the thought of defining the rest of my life by it fills me with dread. The thought of giving up on all my other passions to pursue this identity sends me into a panic, which then floods my mind with other thoughts: Will it be worth it to be so far away from everyone I know and love, just to make coffee? Will I forgo pursing causes for social justice because my full time is occupied with a job I don’t identity with? Will I find myself looking back at these days, wishing I had stayed up and just written down my thoughts instead of fretting over early morning shifts?
These are, I suspect, thoughts that will sound familiar to you if you’re like me and have graduated college with a sense of longing and 30k+ of debt.
And my best guess is that my next few moves will be crucial. Because the older and less malleable my brain becomes, the more difficult it will be to set myself on a different course in the future.
I suppose my real fear is not that I will never discover who I am–but that I may stop becoming in favor of settling for something less difficult.
So it’s decided. I must not stay too long where I am, and instead pursue my passions in whatever direction they my take me. I’ll start with volunteer work and writing as much as possible, and go from them.
And I must hope that in the morning, after I’ve been appeased with sleep, I won’t find these things to be the kind of empty promises I’ll tell myself for the next 10 years.