It’s 8:30 pm – I’m sitting in bed with a tea in one hand, my iPhone in the other and my laptop in front in preparation to write. In the past 30 minutes, I’ve managed to already check my phone at least half a dozen times as I rack my brain for a topic to write on. I check Instagram to reply to any new comments, I check my DMs for any memes I’ve missed from friends and I mindlessly scroll for inspiration long before reminding myself that I actually have work to do. Did I mention I also have music playing? This is a routine I’ve become all too familiar with, as my day-to-day is entwined with distractions, like an addiction I just can’t quit.
I read an article the other day that said “we are a generation that marches to the beat of background noise.” and it’s been on my mind since. I’ll be the first to admit I can’t handle the silence. The pause. Any point in a day where you have nothing to focus your mind on. I mean, I sit on the toilet planning my next Instagram post and I’ll shower to my latest audiobook. Sometimes I’ve even walked the entire way to work before realising, too engrossed in choosing new songs for my weekly playlist to notice.
If time is money, we are generationally doing well. We squeeze more into those spare seconds than anyone else. Day-jobs are propped up by side-hustles, yoga slots in as easy as our morning coffees and we can fit an entire season of Netflix into a week, between baths and cleaning. We binge on productivity porn to make sure we get from A to B quicker than before so next time, we can fit in another task. We are running a fast race, picking up the pace every mile until that level of fitness feels like the acceptable standard. But what happens if we take a second to stop and breathe?
To do nothing almost feels like a guilty pleasure for me now. Boredom – a sick joke. If I stop for just a minute I instantly feel a mini-wave of panic wash over me. Heart rate quickens, mind races. No matter how far ahead I technically am, I always feel like I’m a step behind. Can I shoot that content today? Make $X before this date? Can I see this person before they fly out? I’m a seasoned runner of a race that has no finish line. Every step carries the feeling of disappointment as I am no closer to the end. And you best believe I’ll continue pushing myself forward until I’m exhausted.
Then the 4 am’ers hit. So high strung that in the early morning hours my worries strive. Usually, it goes something like this: I wake up with the nagging feeling I’ve forgotten something. Did I leave the gas on? Was the heater in the living room turned off? Do I need to pee? Then one thought tumbleweeds into another until an avalanche of worries resurface, dating back to three years ago when I said: “your crush is a dick” to one my friends while drunk. By this time it’s been 40 minutes; I still can’t decide if I’ve actually forgotten something, I’m too cold to go pee but now I’m wide awake. And wide awake I’ll stay for another hour (and herbal sleeping tablet) or so.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is a saying we all know too well, and maybe that’s the problem. I can’t help but feel as though we’ve become accustomed to speeding through life with tunnel vision, leaving most of the good stuff in the rearview. Then we’re left playing catch up in the middle of the night, dealing with the aftermath of the day. By which time, after the stress of a sleepless night gets added into the mix, we’ve long forgotten anything decent that happened.
In the small moments of boredom when I’m forced to be in my own company – that’s when I feel the most satisfied. Whether it be a quick cigarette and wine on the deck before my flatmates arrive home (shh.. ) or the ten minutes I have to daydream (about Charles Michael Davis…reow) before I nod off to sleep. These are moments I give my mind free rein to process life’s complexities; the past and present. To nit-pick through the mistakes, and tick the “I’ll never do it again” mental box. To explore wild fantasies without suffering the repercussions. Spark the craziest ideas. These unpressured, untainted moments of reflection are the ones that assure me I’m growing as a person.
So if you’re also part of the 4 am’ers club like me, I think it’s time to give ourselves a break. Stop being distracted by the pace of life. 35 is basically the new 25, and that next million can wait another day to be earnt. The same goes for Instagram when we’re bored (because you know I just picked up, scrolled and put down my phone guiltily). Why not be a little less reachable and not burden ourselves so much with others’ opinions? Why not indulge in our own minds with reverence the way we otherwise invest our time? Take a minute, or take an hour to just be. That way we might just all have a chance of finally getting a good nights sleep.