The last time I talked about the joys of the graveyard shift was five months ago. As my new-old work progressed, my schedule had gone from the graveyard side of 8-to-5, to an awkward 6-to-3.
See, I used to love the mid-shift (or the “swing shift”). I started off my professional life 12 years ago working from 4:00 pm to 1:00 am, shifting one hour behind or forward as needed. It was ideal at that time as I was studying. My college schedule allowed me to pick classes in the morning or afternoon, and I can smoothly transition to my work. When I graduated and started teaching, all I had to do was schedule my classes in the afternoon so as to maximize productivity and rest.
Times are a’changin’ however. I have taken on other responsibilities (music team in church, trying to be a better blogger) and realigned my commitments (focusing more on my family) in such a way that the swing shift only leaves me tired or struggling to overextend.
Theoretically, the swing shift brings the physiological benefit of sleeping while it is still dark. Studies have long touted the benefit of a “good night’s sleep”, but I find that it did not really work for me. I would still rather wake up early in the morning than in the afternoon – which was perhaps why I felt more productive and I was still able to charge through 5 years’ worth of 16-hour days because I had classes in the morning before working. My productivity declined (according to my own, biased observation) when I decided to cram everything in the afternoon. Now with the graveyard shift, I just have to extend from 6:00 am if I want to get things done in the morning!
For the longest time, I avoided the graveyard shift. I was always put off by the studies that show the downsides of working at night – about how counter-intuitive it was, about how it goes against the body is natural circadian rhythm, how it affects the quality of people’s lives. I can actually attest to that! I have observed that I enjoyed better moods and a more prolific social calendar when I am a day-walker. However, I have let myself be overcome with fear.
Now I have this new job. It is the best choice out of three positions I considered back in January when I became tired of my new-old job. The only thing that held me back from putting my “Yes” in bold, underline, and all-caps (it was instead in font size 3 with strike-through in 25% gray) was that it was in the graveyard shift.
The two other choices fell through: one would have me working side-by-side with former students and that would just be awkward, and the other decided to close applications since they opted for lateral movement. And I needed a job.
I just had to give myself a mental kick in the butt, and an imaginary smack upside the head. Why am I so afraid of the graveyard shift? Was it the theoretical cancer-inducing lack of serotonin production? Was it the potential degradation of my quality of life? Was it the potential decline of my social calendar?
But guess what? I just have to be deliberate. See, I did not have to fear for my social life – I wake up just in time to eat dinner with Dad (breakfast for me) and we talk over food. My brothers live elsewhere, but we chat over Viber. While I cannot religiously scroll through my Facebook and Plurk timelines, they are avenues where I can still talk to people – and soon enough, exchanges over the virtual sphere eventually become face-to-face exchanges.
Sure, it is hard to schedule dates; but I have to be aware and to accept the fact that I’m moving against the norm. Thanks to being on the graveyard shift, instead of becoming a social recluse, I have become more thoughtful and mindful in my planning. Not gonna lie, I have had to pull back on extra-curriculum (weeknight worship duties for church, for instance) and turn some dates down because I was the odd one out (no Friday dinner get-togethers for me, alas!), but that is where the silver lining shines through.
I am now able to reconnect with my friends who are on the other side of the world; I can better appreciate time spent with friends and family; and I am really appreciative of those who understand my situation and are willing to make time for me.
With the current traffic horrors in Metro Manila, I am actually glad to be working the night shift. I avoid the rush-hour traffic, my travel time is shorter, and given the tropical summer season, I avoid being burned by the afternoon sun! I can actually walk part of the way during my commute thus saving me money and giving me much needed exercise.
Added bonus? Fresh food. I have access to freshly made taho, and newly-delivered produce in open market stalls.
I figure, what I lack in serotonin I can make up for a deliberately thoughtful lifestyle: get back into working out regularly, and eat healthy (home-cooked) food. In a way, this is timely as I have been recently diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes. The doctor’s goals matches mine: I would want to be weaned off of the medication as soon as possible, and the way around it is to lose weight significantly.
Another thought that comforts me is that the God who created me was the first to make triple-shifts en vogue 😉 He did not rest for “six days” when He created everything, and until now, He does not sleep. Clearly, I am not God (hahahaha!) but I rest quietly when I am aware in my faithful reality that even if just in this aspect of being able to work at any time of the day, I can see that I am indeed made in His image and likeness.
With these things in mind, I can say with confidence that I am far beyond being able to say, “At least I have a job!” I am seriously done with mere survival, mind.
This is not me campaigning for the graveyard shift, but more of an illustration of how to deal with situations life hands to us. We deal with things differently, after all. On the surface, it would look as I have been handed a shit deal – working nights, less social life, less sunlight; but I have learned how to adjust my perspective and find peace and joy, and be thankful in my circumstances.