I have been pretty good so far this school year about getting enough sleep---until tonight. I've been trying to get as much done during the day as possible so that I don't have to stay up until all hours doing work. But this week finally got to me. Too many meetings, too many commitments, too many deadlines....and it's not like I can stop doing class prep (although that's been VERY minimal lately....not the best thing to do in a review year, when colleagues are observing my teaching). So here I am, late at night, trying desperately to catch up.
Staying up tonight was worth it---I actually (gasp!) got some research done, and I'm pretty confident about what I'm covering in one class tomorrow. But I know I will pay for it tomorrow....and tomorrow's another long day filled with meetings and more commitments. Ugh.
I used to think nothing of staying up late to work. There's something almost seductive about the occasional late night: the quiet house, the surrounding darkness, the freedom from interruptions. If I stay up late enough, I get a second wind that carries me into the wee hours of the morning. Some of my best thinking occurs during these late hours. (Of course some of my deepest despair and doubt also happen at these late hours, but let's not go there. This is a happier post.)
In grad school, when I was finishing up a big project about midway through my time there, I remember spending many late nights at the lab over the course of a month, running simulations and analyzing data. I would leave the lab just as the sun was coming up. Yes, I'd be cursing my fate, but at the same time there was something peaceful---about being alone, about accomplishing something by working hard and steadily. I felt as though I'd earned my rest, both mentally and physically.
As I get older, I find myself less able to reach that "second wind" stage, and even less able to recover from the late nights. So I rarely get to experience the late night solitude. But when I do find myself staying up late, I find myself embracing the solitude, embracing the sense of peace, and feeling grateful for what I can accomplish.
And now I've earned my rest---off to bed!