Working night shift can be a lonely business at the best of time, especially when we haven’t been in to the office for over a year.
I do love working from home, but I have found myself missing the social interactions that kept you awake in the wee hours of the night and helped make what is often a high-pressure job—and depressing at times given that many of the government departments under my purview deal with very unpleasant topics like domestic and child abuse or the shameful treatment of the elderly and the disabled that occurs far too often.
Connecting COVID Style
While people have come up with all sorts of ways to keep some sort of social interaction going with their colleagues, filling their days with new ways of getting their social fix like Zoom calls or virtual water coolers through voice chat servers, working nights means many of them are denied us. When you are working at 2 am you can’t just pick up the phone and call a friend—for some reason people aren’t always thrilled to be woken up or keen to shoot the breeze.
And, when you have someone else in the house trying to sleep talking loudly and laughing with your colleagues like you would in the office isn’t really conducive to a happy household.
Instant messaging does let you keep connected to a degree but going weeks at a time without hearing a human voice can be tough, especially in the small hours of the night—that period when staying focused seems toughest (not for nothing was that the preferred time for a sneak attack during wartime – sentries were likely to be at their least alert).
My job requires me to be on right through the night, you can’t judge fudge things, so I have had to find ways of staying switched on through the long dark tea-time of the soul—especially as that is when things are busiest and the pressure of deadlines begins to build, leaving little time for casual conversation.
Charms to Soothe the Savage Shift Worker
For me it is music, and the easiest option for me is Youtube as we use Chrome for our platform. One of the unexpected benefits is that I don’t think I have discovered more new music since I stopped listening to the radio. CDs and iPod and the like lend themselves to listening to the same old stuff again and again, but Youtube throws up some incredibly random stuff in its mix playlists based on the things I have chosen in the past---it’s almost eerily accurate in how it knows what music will appeal to my tastes.
Where my natural inclination would be to pick the bands I am already familiar with and know I will enjoy, rather than risking disappointment on an unknown quantity. But, Youtube has forced me to give new music a chance and, while there has been the occasional dud, I’ve found a heap of new artists that are now members of my regular playlists—and even some that have joined my list of favourites.
A spork in the road
It could have quite easily been very different, I could have quite happily kept listening to the same stuff on my iPhone, sticking to the playlists I had created myself. I might never have even known what I was missing, and been perfectly content listening to the same familiar favourites. But, then I would have never had the opportunity to discover more music I love—and would have been the poorer for it.
It made me wonder, how often in life do we let the comfort of the familiar stop us from getting or being all we should, or could. It could be settling for an adequate job and staying there, rather than looking to see if there is something better out there waiting. It might be staying in your home town your whole life rather than taking a chance on starting somewhere new. It might be accepting how life turned out, rather than chasing the way you wanted to.
Familiarity but no contempt
That doesn’t mean the familiar isn’t sometimes better, or the new thing you try always works out. Some people want to stay in the same town, or the same job, or listen to the same music—there is nothing wrong with that. But, if we choose the familiar it shouldn’t be because we don't know any better. What matters is that whatever we do is our choice, that we decided that was what mattered to us for its own---not simply because we didn’t know there was anything else out there.
David Goodwin is the former Editor of The Salvation Army’s magazine,War Cry. He is also a cricket tragic, and an unapologetic geek.
David Goodwin archive of articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/david-goodwin.html