Staying Awake


The morning is gray and foggy, a condition that I would enjoy a lot more if I weren’t having so much trouble staying awake during the day. Of course, I’d have better luck at staying awake during the day if I were better at staying asleep at night. It’s not that I’ve been waking up exactly, but rather that my dreams have become so vivid and elaborate that I hardly feel like I’ve slept by the time that I pull myself out of them. Last night’s dream involved updating some kind of files that required seeking out famous chefs whose approval could overwrite five other files in each batch. For reasons that make sense only in dream logic, this took place in a Westworld style environment that was set in my old high school building which was still in the process of being demolished brick by brick. I can easily understand where each of the individual elements came from, but the fact that my brain saw fit to use my sleeping hours to try to mash all these elements into a single narrative seems like poor planning- both in terms of storytelling and in terms of time management. 

So I’m looking into the day and trying to gird myself for a battle of attrition against sleep. Yesterday, this battle required naps, but then again yesterday I got out the door late and had to drive to work which meant that I had a quiet, private van to retreat to over lunch. There will be no such retreat today, so I’ll have to make do with caffeine and force of will. 

I’m no longer on the reception desk, which is a welcome change of pace, but the new work is both abstract and repetitive. Open the invoice. Print the invoice. Find the check register. Print the check register. Match the invoice to the check register. Create report. Resave report. Click. Click. Click. Each task consists of about a thousand steps and I’ve only learned how to do about seven hundred and fifty of them so I keep going back to the steps that I know and going over them again and again. It’s the modern day equivalent of counting sheep. 

I suspect that once I make it though the entire process I’ll have a better understanding of what I’m actually doing and the work will become less rote. Without knowing why I am doing each step it takes a lot more concentration to make sure I’m doing each step correctly. It both leaves a lot of my brain unused ( it’s not intellectually challenging) yet doesn’t allow it to wander ( if I lose focus at the wrong moment I could end up printing 190 pages instead of just one). So I find myself thinking only the thoughts that can be broken into small pieces. I find myself thinking back to my days off temping immediately after graduating from undergrad and wondering whether this is really as far as I’ve gotten? I find myself wondering how much of my life has been and will be consumed by tedium and whether this should be considered time well spent since it has helped me to make a living even though it has eaten up time that could have been spent making a life. At the moment I’m still of the mind that sleep inducing paid repetition is still preferable to gut twisting unpaid anxiety. And it’s temporary, so I needn’t feel obligated to incorporate this work into my identity there’s no risk that I’ll be tempted to make a career of it. 

So all in all, I can tolerate some boredom… As long as I can stay awake for it. 

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on October 12, 2016.

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