This coming weekend marks two months at my current job. It has gone by so unbelievably fast and I feel as if I’ve been stumbling through time in a daze. As an office that will operate 24 hours sometime at the beginning of next year, we’ve been switching between one of the three shifts every week. One week, I’ll be working the overnight shift, coming home to sleep while everyone else is heading off to start their day. The next, I sleep in in the morning, getting to work at 3 pm and leaving at 11 pm to grab a pint or two with coworkers before the pubs close. Last weekend, I worked both days. The weekend prior, I was off.
The erratic nature of my scheduling for the past two months has had an interesting effect on my grasp of time. There has been no normality, no routine, and time seems to flow from one day to the next with no defined beginning or end. I sometimes get home and am confused about what day it is, if I had worked that day or the one before. I’ve found it hard to commit to anything productive as attempting to get the right amount of sleep has become somewhat of a hobby in its own right. I’ve thought about this phenomenon a lot recently and the best way to describe it is this:
Life is now defined as when I’m at work and when I’m not at work.
I decided to bring this up yesterday while I was out for drinks with my team after shift ended at 3 pm. I was unsure of how it would be received because in a way it sounds stupid. That is how it is for everyone with a job, right? You’re either at work or you’re not. But it’s so much more than that. I can’t explain it but I can feel it; it’s not a tangible idea, but pieces of it are swirling around my brain like a cyclone. And it seems I’m not the only one. I simply had to say that one sentence and my words were met with knowing nods of agreement. I didn’t have to say anything else. Everyone else feels it, too.
But this is not to say I don’t like my job. In fact, I love it. I have never been happier to go into the office. I work with incredible people, each one special and wonderful in their own way. I have had such a fantastic time getting to know them separately, love the jokes we have, and the bond we share due to the nature of the work. It’s nonstop, demanding, mentally exhausting. We see and read horrible things and have developed our own macabre sense of humor to deal with it. But the work is also stimulating, challenging, and ever-changing. Saturday, a coworker was stumbling through a badly translated article in Japanese. As far as he could riddle out, the story involved a brother and a sister and murder. “Oh,” I said nonchalantly, looking at his screen and noticing the familiar name of a shrine in Tokyo. “That’s about the Shinto priestess whose brother killed her with a samurai sword.” It wasn’t until later that I realized how random that piece of knowledge was. At what other job would I be learning so much about the world every single day?
And tomorrow will be another day, whatever that means at this point in time. Come January, we will start on month-long stints of the same shift so I’m sure we will all fall into a more predictable kind of rhythm. In a way though, I’m glad for this deconstruction of time. Sometimes it feels as if I’m in another dimension or walking upstream against a strong and unrelenting current. But through this, I have gained another perspective and look at things through a slightly different lens. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. I believe that in the end, the quality of this unending expanse of time means much more than any quantifiable measurement of its fleeting moments.