New Yorkers are an ambitious people. We push each other to do better all the time, because whether we’re talking about personal, professional, or secret lives, there is always someone ready to take your place at the first sign of weakness or a shaky resolve. This is true during the morning commute, when a coveted seat opens at a crowded spot; on the weekends, where you can’t waver on whether to talk to the hot boy or buy the pretty girl a drink because someone will beat you to it; and throughout the week, where we work like maniacs for however many hours per week, pushing ourselves to be the best. I think this constant rat race is what exhausts the people that claim they could “never live in NYC,” and I can totally understand that sentiment, but for the rest of us, there’s a pride and a hunger that comes with pushing yourself to work harder, be smarter, do more. The city is our Tiger Mom, making sure you know that you’re not a special snowflake unless, or until, you create a snowstorm for yourself.
Something we say in my line of work is that this industry isn’t a 9-5. I mean yes, I work Monday through Friday and during the day, but my industry is one that runs on adrenaline and caffeine, constantly changing with the sunrise and a piece of news; one day you could roll into the office at 930 and roll out by 6, and other days you’re working 14 hours straight, chugging lattes until the words on the computer start to blur. I don’t mind the occasional late nights, really. There are perks to working late sometimes. Your company might pay for you to take a car home, or pay for dinner. Sometimes it’s a great time for bonding with coworkers, and if you’re really lucky the company will have a bottle of wine open in the kitchen to pass those last few minutes. My company has all of these things and more, and yet it’s tough to be sitting here, 9 p.m. on a Tuesday as I’m starting this draft, with no end of crazy in sight.
I feel badly complaining about a crazy work schedule. For starters, I’m so grateful to have a job, especially one that I really like, and I relish the chance to work on things that actually stimulate me and make me excited to learn more. I’m so fortunate that my office is directly across the street from Chelsea Market, that I get a stunning view of the sunset over the frozen Hudson, and that at the end of the day, if working late on a winter weeknight is the worst part of my week, then I’ve got a pretty damn good life. Plus, I think about friends with crazier schedules, like my ex, who routinely worked past midnight, and once stayed in the office for 36 hours straight the day before we left on our first vacation together (spoiler alert: he slept pretty much the whole time. We agreed I wouldn’t complain about his sleeping provided he did not comment on my 10:30 a.m. pina coladas). So in the grand scheme of things, I don’t really have a right to complain about being here, once again, this late; I can’t complain about my three weeks of nights past 7:30 when I know people that work these types of hours all the time.
But I am so tired. I’m so tired. I don’t have the time to do things that make me happy, and it’s starting to affect me: I’m barely managing an hour of yoga per day, I clearly have no time to blog, and frankly, I don’t have any time to unwind after work, because I get home with just enough time to cobble together a quick dinner (which at this point is usually just eggs or an apple) before it’s bedtime, and then I’m back to the same routine: early morning, late night. I miss having that extra hour at home to myself each night, one I can fill with whatever I want, whether it’s watching Netflix, doing more yoga, reading a magazine, or sitting on the couch with little miss, just hanging out and listening to The Heights. It’s small, this nightly debrief, but it’s something I look forward to, and losing that little extra time to myself has been a really tough adjustment.
Want to know the worst part of all this, though? I secretly love it. I love coming into the office and getting into work that’s challenging and still new. I know the soft swoosh of the white noise machines overhead that signal the end of a normal work day, bringing this still calm over the office, perfectly conducive for those last two hours of urgent things I’ve been trying to tackle all day. I like watching the sunset over the Hudson, frozen this week with the weather, and I love the way my head hits the pillow every night, the heavy thud of a tired LB followed by the deep sigh of a day well done. I’m starting to get that crazy-person mini-anxiety if I realize I haven’t checked my work phone before going to bed, and it’s part of my morning ritual now to read emails before I’m even out of pajamas. I feel accomplished, and successful, and look, the late nights to get there aren’t my favorite, but I’m proud of what I’ve done in such a short time, and I know I haven’t even really started to get going.
When I left the office after 9 last night, I had already worked 24 hours in just two days. That’s an entire day out of my life that was spent at my desk, in front of my computer. And in that time, I probably checked six things off my to-do list and added twelve. Yesterday was supposed to be my slow day, leading into a busy end of the week, and tonight promises to be a doozy. And sure, it sucks to think that I’ll be home too late again to enjoy that little ritual, those few moments to myself before jumping back into the grid, but on that same note, it’s awesome. It’s awesome to feel accomplished at the end of a long day, and a long week, and at this point, a long month. Will it feel awesome forever? Maybe not. But I don’t think it will be like this forever, the scrambling late nights and blurring words on a tired laptop. And even if it is, so be it. After all, this is the rat race of New York City. We’re all mad here.