Monday, October 18, 2010

Thoughts of a Graveyard Worker

I work on a graveyard shift. My project requires me to follow the life of an American Stock Exchange. I am bound by US Federal Holidays and the work-specific stress that comes with it. I've done graveyard shift before and I thought I was courageous and familiar enough to do it again. I admit I was enticed by the professional growth and the compensation, which my work generally deliver. But now I am constantly reminded of the sacrifices, random depressing thoughts and involuntary disconnection of my time with my favorite friends and loved ones. Allow me to pour my angst at 4:30 in the morning as my sleeping was not successfully reprogrammed, something that a graveyard worker experiences.

Working in a graveyard shift is no big joke. Number one, your body clock gets screwed. It might take days, weeks or months to take reign of your sleeping habits, but bottom line is that you are the one who has to adjust because you're a minority. It takes a lot of effort. From faking the night, losing sleep and doing the things you want to do on a normal day, either way you lose something. It's either you lose sleep or your life. There are no in-betweens. If you're an athlete and an avid gym goer, you have to adjust your gym days especially if you're working out with a group. You are the minority, you have to adjust and squeeze in the time. No one is forcing you to subject yourself to a full rest during the day, but prepare to lose sleep and be a zombie at work. If you can't take the added effort and just surrender yourself to the sleep that you very much need, prepare to be missing in action with your friends and rearranging your favorite extra curricular routine. That goes with other activities that you did on your ex-normal life. Few graveyard professionals have totally adapted to changing their lives upside down. Usually, they have successfully reversed life to their advantage, apparently not me.

I mostly don't have enough sleep. It's always a prayer to not wake up in the middle of the day, but something always gets in the way. I sleep an average of 3-4 hours in a day, 5 hours if I get lucky. Working at night is a struggle and I get so groggy after my shift that I'm surprised I haven't had a car accident yet going home. During the weekends, sleep robs me of my time with friends and family. As much as I want to spend time with them by just taking a quick nap, I easily deteriorate in the late afternoons or early evenings. I get cranky and unappreciative. And if I do sleep according to my body's wishes, I wake up at wee hours in the morning, while everyone who is living the "normal" life is still asleep. I have not found my control. I'm practically useless every Saturdays. I just catch up on sleep on that day. I only feel that Sunday is my only weekend and Monday is a half day of preparation to work.

Working on a graveyard also takes a lot of psychological effort. It takes a lot of will to block depressing thoughts and to encourage yourself to be happy. Going to work when you see majority of people going home is depressing. It automatically robs me of my desire to start the day when I should have been ending it. Seeing people go home makes me sad. Having breakfast/dinner with my boyfriend sucks because I should be going home with him, instead my day is just starting. Leaving the house at night is something that I really have to get used to.

Then comes the additional work stress, missed meals and vacations you have to adjust because your work hours would eat two days immediately. Then you have nasty conversations with loved ones after missing them so much just because you're cranky and you need your sleep.

Working on a graveyard shift is no big joke. What makes a person go through with it must be really worth the trouble. For me it was a choice between money/professional growth or my life before. It's sad to think that in any decision a sacrifice has to be made. Obviously I initially chose money and growth while I'm seeing my life change before my eyes. Can't say I have fully adjusted to it, nor I love it, but let's see how it goes. For now, allow me to release my thoughts through this blog. It's ugly, but it's reality. I just hope I can withstand it.

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