In my new role as a working adult, young professional, gainfully-employed manchild or whatever you want to call it, the battle for sleep has become a constant struggle. I don’t mean to imply that I’m working into the wee hours (although waking up early is still beyond me), or that I’ve developed insomniac tendencies due to the stress of my job, or even to say that I’m not, on the average, getting a healthy number of sleep hours. In the past, the lack of a sleep routine was not troubling. My hours were flexible. If I wanted to work, I worked. If I wanted to sleep, I slept. If I wanted to play, I played. Within reason, that was more or less my life. But the transition to working 9-5 (with the occasional evening hours) has played devilishly with my ability to get quality rest.
Note, reader, that I’m not one to go out much. I’m a homebody, through and through. I prefer to stay home, cook myself dinner, read a book and go to bed. That’s generally what my evenings consist of, not staying out late and pretending to be a party animal. Life as a devotee teaches you that the simpler pleasures are better – the pleasure of one’s own company as opposed to the company of strangers, or the satisfaction of a homemade meal against the styrofoam container of Chinese takeout. At work, I see an unending stream of students, parents, coworkers and bosses, people of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds. As happy as I am to see them, in my own time I seek solitude. And in solitude, I find peace.
Now, it sounds like such a lifestyle would be conducive to getting plenty of quality sleep. But consider how much time it takes to cook a meal for oneself. By myself, I can spend up to an hour and a half making meals. In fact, sometimes I don’t know where the time goes but by the time I hit bed, it’s already 11pm! Of course, when you’re already out of the house for 8+ hours a day, you have to plan these evenings carefully. For example, many of my friends don’t commit to a weeknight activity that involves them getting home later than 10 PM. At the absolute latest, they are in bed by midnight, with those two hours prior spent on household tasks, checking the mail, or preparing for the next day. Weekends, of course, are more freeform, but they are committed to this workweek schedule with almost fanatic persuasion.
This, I am told, is what becoming an adult means. Accruing responsibilities, worrying about bills, losing hair, gaining weight, losing sleep – it’s a part of growing older. I am told that I am still young; I should embrace these challenges while I have the strength to do so. But I look at other people my age who live on their own, and they seem to be happy doing fewer chores, keeping a less-clean living space, ordering food in, and going out every other night, and I know that they too must be adults. There are moments where I think I should try to be like them, to be happy doing what they are doing because they seem happy doing it. But, I know it all just looks good, living like that is another thing. Maharaj Ji teaches us that happiness and sadness are internal qualities, they do not exist in the world but are rather products of our mind. I have to remember this. I have to seek my own meaningful happiness, not ascribe meaning to the happiness of others. And then there is only one chance – this one human life and only one youth – it’s up to me how to use it.
With all the hectic energy of young adulthood, sometimes it can be hard to gain perspective on life, let alone get rest. But when I go to Radha Madhav Dham, I never worry about losing sleep. Attending late night kirtan sessions, waking up early to do parikrama and start my day with satsang – these are all things that give energy back to the body, that replenish and restore the mind to face the day. When I am thinking of Shyam Sundar, I am well-rested. It is in these moments of peace and restfulness that I can reflect and return to simpler times when I played in the day and slept in the night when sleep came easily because my dreams were filled with Radha and Krishna.