What really matters
Since high school, I've gotten about six hours of sleep a night.
Some nights I get more, some nights I get less, but six is a pretty fair average. I'm on the go 18 hours a day. I'm on constant deadline. I don't really know what to do with myself when I run out of things on my "to do" list — not that that's happened in a long time.
I always thought that stopping and smelling the roses was for people with free time. I even once said, "I don't need to sleep. That's what you do once you're dead."
But recently I was forced to take some time out and slow down: I caught mononucleosis, and I'm now in the long process of battling my way back.
I'm not entirely sure where I got it, but it hit me pretty hard, keeping me out of a full week of classes and forcing me to spend five days as an inpatient in the infirmary.
The week before I got sick, I had been entertaining the thought: "If I died now, I would have so much less homework." (You know you've thought it.) In the infirmary, my classwork was going undone, I was getting unbelievably behind and I felt awful, but it occurred to me that that wasn't important. I was thinking how lucky I was.
What's important is that I have friends who stopped by and visited me every day, co-workers who covered my shifts and brought me Observers, classmates who copied their notes for me, professors who were extremely understanding and accommodating, a rector who came by to make sure I was all right, a mother who took a day off and drove two hours to visit me, family who called me every day and worried about me, and nurses and doctors who took wonderful care of me. Now that I'm home, I have sectionmates who stop by every time they're going to Meijer to ask if I'm out of anything, neighbors who turn down their music so I can take naps and classmates who ask how I'm feeling every day.
I may be two weeks behind in class, my GPA may not be the greatest in the world, my monetary situation may be less-than-stellar, and I may never understand Athanasius.
But when it comes to what matters, I have an embarrassment of riches.
I'd like to say that this was a life-changing epiphany for me, but I know that just as soon as I'm able I'll be back on my 18-hour days, pushing too hard and taking too little time out. We all like to complain about our lives, and we often have good reason. We push ourselves to our mental and physical limits. We don't get enough sleep, we don't eat right, and we don't take enough time for ourselves.
But I had a moment to reflect on my life and the wonderful people in it, and I like what I see.
Take a moment, breathe and reflect on your life; I'm sure you'll feel the same.
The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Inside Stories for Tuesday, October 5, 1999