It seemed like only yesterday when I accepted the opportunity to work 1/2 of my shifts as night-shifts for a brief, 3 month period. Having worked a relatively normal, 9-5 shift with the occasional swing most of my adult life, it was an experience that I was ill prepared for at first. I scoured Wikihow articles, asked coworkers that worked nights what their tips were, and bought everything I could (earplugs, a shade, melatonin, etc) and headed into my first shift.
I kept a journal as a means to both stay awake and process what was going on the first couple of nights. When you work night shift for a cultural institution, there is a lot of downtime between when you get in to relieve whoever is working swings and when whoever relieves you comes in for the morning shift. The only personal obligation that I ever had when I was on the night shift was to eat, which is something I tried to do around 2:00 AM so that I could be sustained throughout the duration of my shift.
The down time between patrolling the building and checking to make sure things on the outside was some of the most productive time that I had in my life. Beyond writing in my personal journal, I would often use my calendar to organize events that were happening in the coming week, do some self reflection, and started to actively monitor what I ate over the course of a day. When you work nights, the two biggest non-work related things that you worry about are food intake and sleep.
It took about 2-3 weeks to adjust to the sleep schedule of the shift. By the time that I adapted, it was mid-April, a time where it could be anywhere between 30 degrees and 75 degrees as the high in any given day. At that time, the sun still set relatively early, so I would be commuting into work in pitch black and leaving as the sun began its ascent over the horizon. Now, as we approach the longest day of the year, sunrise would be in the middle of my shift, making for a safer bike ride from work but also making it harder to stay asleep once I got home.
Self reflection, mentioned briefly, turned into self improvement, as I started to think about goals I had in my life. I fixed up my bicycle that I had left to rust over the winter in my former apartment and added some components (a rack, a bike pump, some pannier bags) that made it a lot easier for me to ride around the city. I started tracking and watching what I ate, adhering to a stricter diet that has helped me lose over 10 pounds. I began to follow through on commitments to friends, which admittedly is still something I struggle with.
While working night shift helped me improve my life greatly, I am ready to return to the world of the living. In the past couple of weeks, heat and the sunrise have made sleeping a lot harder during the day, and, at times, it felt isolating. From the darkness of the night shift, I was able to find the light within myself to make my life better.