I’ve been sleeping earlier and earlier the past few days. I went to bed at midnight yesterday, before 1am the day before, and before 2am the day before that. And there were times in the weeks that preceded that I was sleeping at maybe 3am. The result would be that I would wake up tired and groggy– this would never seem too terrible at the moment of waking. It would seem like the same as any other day. But after I get to work, I would be tired and groggy.
The worst part is, it’s never completely clear that this is actually the case. I think I took a 20 minute nap at work yesterday and I felt a little bit refreshed, but really, it’s no substitute for good, deep sleep. Which makes me want to take a little time to explore my experience and history with sleep, just as a while ago I found myself thinking about my history with food.
I read a quote recently– I’m not sure if it was on Reddit or Hacker News or somewhere– maybe Tumblr, maybe an Imgur picture quoting Tumblr (that’s probably it– it’s all the same, it’s all a blur now, the nature of modernity is that everything from everywhere is happening all at once)– about someone talking about their experience staying up late. Between 1am and 4am, he or she said, the world is quiet and still, and you can ignore your obligations, your responsibilities, the consequences of your actions. It’s the romance of late nights, the time out of time, where you are completely free to do as you please. In Singapore, if you like, you can even go out and have supper.
When I look back on my life, there have been times where time spent with friends between 1am and 4am was some of my favorite times. I used to play video games at friends houses, or smoke at void decks and drink beer and talk about what life had in store for us ahead, or talk about relationship problems, and wonder if we’d ever figure it all out– or if we’d get any better at this whole living thing. I think for younger folks– teenagers, especially, the night has a certain sense of freedom calling. Your parents are asleep, your teachers are asleep, the witching hours are the time where you can be free. These are probably the times where teenage boys and girls sneak out of their homes to go and make out in the playgrounds– spaces which enable children’s play in the daylight would afford semi-privacy for quivering, wandering hands, fingers, lips.
For me, the late nights were the quiet times, the downtime away from all the pesky people who fill up my day like swarms of insects, buzzing and yapping and moving around in their clunky, obtuse ways. I have to admit, these are my feelings as I write this– people often annoy and frustrate me. I like persons– George Carlin said that when you catch an individual in person, you can see the Universe in his eyes if you’re really looking. But groups of people, swathes of people, they can be sickening and overwhelming.
I don’t mean that personally. Every person must feel the same way about my role in the crowd, too. We are all traffic. We are all the plague on our own houses. And every day I feel worn down and abused by the throngs of people on the trains. Some people are fine, but there are always those who are loud and obnoxious and abrasive, and a part of me always wants to lash out at them, speak up and put them in their place somehow.
But I know that that would itself be unnecessary provocation, that my expression of annoyance would further annoy and frustrate others, and so I just allow it to boil inside me, hopefully distracting myself with things on my phone, maybe listen to some music, maybe try to be a little bit meditative. Nothing quite works, and the commutes just wear you down. Perhaps someday I will be able to afford taking a cab, perhaps driverless cars will soon be a thing (I wish for this so hard), or perhaps I will move somewhere that isn’t as inaccessible as where I am right now.
But I have to remember to be thankful and grateful and all that, yadda yadda. Suspending that for now to think harder about late nights. I remember the house that my family lived in was always tense. My parents worked out of a home office, and so they were always concerned about work. There was no clear demarcation between work and home in my house, and I didn’t want to be a part of it very much.
So I’d typically head out– either stay late in school, or go to friends’ homes, or hang out in the library, I don’t know. It seems a little neat and tidy to say that I was avoiding home. Was I really? I know that I was never in a rush to go home. There were always some people who would linger– sometimes different people every time, and a few who would linger throughout. And I would stick around to see who would stick around, and to see what would unfold, what fuckery we’d get up to.
I’d notice the same thing happening on Facebook years later, when Facebook came around. You’d see all those green lights in the sidebar, people who’re online. And as the night goes on, you’d see more and more of the lights go off, and you’d feel a certain affinity to the last few people who remained. Sometimes people from the other side of the Earth.
I remember chatting from time to time with a friend of my wife’s, who was studying in New York. We’d typically chat around 3am or so. I enjoyed our conversations– there was something about tired late nights, something about the darkness, something about the quiet that would bring out something introspective and honest about me. I wouldn’t be surprised if– when I someday become a novelist or writer of some sort– I actively sometimes choose to stay up late at night to write.
But lately I’ve been contemplating the inverse, which I’ve never fully explored. Sleeping early so that I can wake up late, arising BEFORE the world, allowing the world to come to me. It seems like a much more confident, strong proposition. We’ll see how that plays out. It’s 1040pm now, and I’m going to bed. It’s rather uncharacteristic of me.