Are we candles?

It was just after 4am when I turned the light off. This was last night, and as I consciously attempted to quiet my brain, I lay on my stomach and willed myself to sleep. My third consecutive day spent, in its entirety, at work. My eyes fluttered shut and I felt thankful that I’d get a full five hours of sleep. Now it’s nearing 1am, just about 24 hours later, and I’m overeagerly writing in anticipation of the sleep — a glorious 8 hours or more tonight — that will follow.

Last night, in the moments between my eyes closing and subsequently swimming out of consciousness, I realized I hadn’t written. I talked myself out of my initial reaction — to haul myself out of bed and sit and write, anything — in part from exhaustion and in part because I remembered what a friend wrote, just the previous day, with regard to my writing intention: you can break your own rule. She’s right. And I did. Yesterday was the first day in 2016 that I didn’t write something, whether publicly or in journal format.

This week is a “crunch week” at work. If you don’t know this term, ask anybody who works in technology, or in video games, or for a creative agency, and they’ll be adequately, if not intimately, familiar. Crunch, in the language of startups, roughly translates to “you don’t stop working on The Thing until The Thing is done”. Many companies hope to avoid periods like this, but nearly all realize their occasional necessity if you’re working against aggressive deadlines or moving quickly. So when the time does come, you steel yourself against the emotional stress and push until your work pays off.

What I hate the most about crunching is how much I enjoy it. Every time I begrudgingly admit to friends that I’m leaving the bar to go back to work — an admittance that is always met with confusion, especially after 9pm — the masochist in me steeples his fingers in front of his chest and laughs an evil, toothy laugh. Each time I feel the rush of energy that accompanies settling in for a long night of work, music blasting and takeout food already en route, I wonder why I enjoy this. I wonder whether I’ll always enjoy this, or if my tolerance for such sustained exertion knows a limit that I won’t be able to foresee.

I wonder if we’re candles, each off us, burning down our passions. I wonder whether someday that flame will go out and I’ll wish I’d used the fire to light up another while I had the chance.