Night Owl (Or Yet Another Questionable Decision)

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Wall sticker in Mark's room

Wall sticker in Mark’s room

It’s late, way too late. It’s so late that I’ve just received a short email from my aunt who is drinking her morning cup of tea 6,000 kilometres away, in one of these soulless Parisian suburbs. “It’s cloudy and rainy,” she complains. I “bonjour” back while sipping my soup and we email back and forth for a few minutes as she gets ready for her long morning commute to the French capital.

I should be heading off to bed but I don’t.

I’m a stubborn idiot.

I finish my soup and eat my bowl of rice. I wrapped up my last assignment around midnight, took a shower, made my to-do list for the following day, set up my alarm and now I’m finally relaxing. Feng is a night owl too and he worked late as well, but he values his sleep so he went to bed to make sure he would get at least seven hours of snooze time. I can hear him breathing deeply. Mark is sleeping too.

I step out for a smoke. Even the rabbit who seems to enjoy our front lawn so much went to sleep. There is no traffic outside, it’s pitch dark but for the moon. It’s in a different place in the sky now, the only thing moving at this time of the night.

This is no a mild case of insomnia; this is me every night. I don’t want to go to bed—not yet, anyway. I’m not doing anything illegal or shady. I’m not gambling, cheating or drinking. I’m not even watching a pirated movie. I’m just sitting in our one comfortable IKEA chair, a blanket on my legs, browsing the web. For the first time in the day, I take a passive role. I enjoy stories other people wrote, look at meals other people cooked, admire pictures other people took. My attention span is limited so I focus on stories I bookmarked earlier in the day. My eyes are watering and if my hands were free, I’d rub them, but I’m holding my bowl of rice, cooked hours ago, warmed up in the microwave because I didn’t have time to eat dinner.

“Kids are so illogical and unreasonable,” I complained one night. “They are hungry but they don’t eat, they play with dirty stuff and they don’t want to go to sleep even though they are exhausted!”

As soon as I said it, I realised that kids could say the same about adults. We make up weird diets that make life complicated and occasionally make us miserable, we drink so much that we have to deal with unpleasant physical and emotional side effects the following day, we take stimulants to stay awake and we aren’t always playing nice with others.

I must have used a thousand of age-appropriate profanity-free versions of “go the fuck to sleep” with Mark but I’m as silly as him. I’m tired, yet I don’t go to bed.

I pay for it every morning but these late-night hours are precious to me. This is the only time of the day where I don’t have anything else to do afterwards but tucking myself into clean Tide-washed bedsheets. There is no task due afterwards, there is no rush, there is no one around I have to take care of. The world is on pause and I can catch up. It’s just me, the laptop and a dim light—I use the weakest light in the living room so that I don’t see the mess and the crumbs on the carpet. Cheap trick, I know.

In the late hours of the night—or rather, the early hours of the morning, I know I accomplished everything I had to for that day. I’m done, emphasis on “done”. I feel a sense of pride, of freedom, but only if I avoid thinking that in five or six hours, I will have to wake up, face another day, its routine chores as well as the unexpected ones.

I’m not the only night owl around, I know many of my friends sleep late as well for the same reasons—busy days, demanding schedules, never-ending to-do lists. Sometimes, our paths cross—a late email, an “online” status. We greet each other and giggle like schoolgirls skipping class: “I know, it’s late, eh!”

I close my eyes for a split second. Any longer and I’d be snoring—I already almost fell asleep when stretching on the floor thirty minutes ago.

I bite into a chocolate cookie.

“It’s not that late,” I rationalise. “Like, if we were to switch to winter time tonight, I’d get almost enough sleep.”

But of course, I can’t decide to turn the clocks back just because it would be convenient to me.

The digital numbers blink accusingly. I move the computer an inch or two to block the guilt-tripping made-in-China device.

Shit. I just wasted two minutes thinking about a stupid clock. Better read another clickbait article.

Now I’m the one blinking. Words. Sense. No make.

I sigh. Maybe it’s time to call it a night.

Tomorrow, I’ll definitely sleep earlier, I swear to myself.

Spoiler: I probably won’t.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Oh I love this article. I can see myself through your eyes, well, words. Though, a few years ago, mono hit me. I never quite get rid of it and it’s like my whole “body chemistry” changed, now, I’m not a night owl anymore. I’ve always needed 9+ hours of sleep everynight (which can make life difficult for me), but now I have to get to bed early too… Or maybe this is just aging.
    I don’t know. I still love waking up in the middle of the night (knowing I don’t have to wake up early in the morning, though) and watching my neighboors at their own windows. Are they night owls? Or do they have insomnia too? What’s their lives look like? I enjoy seeing a cigarette butt lightening the face of my neighboors… This is so relaxing, a moment just for me!

    • Oh, I know that moment you are talking about! The feeling you are alone, in peace, watching the world on pause… feels great.

      Mono is awful :-/ My sister got it too when she was a teen.

  2. I used to be more of a night owl, though I was never that productive at night. But it feels like someone flipped a switch when I approached my 30’s and I became more of a morning person.
    I am now one of those boring adults who leave the bar early and go to bed at (if not before!!!) 10pm!
    My time to myself is my shower at night. I always lock myself in the bathroom for a while and enjoy being alone with my phone to browse online as well as my thoughts 🙂

  3. I need a lot of me time. My responsibilities are waiting for me as soon as I wake up and continue until my kids go to bed. Actually, after this I still need to do housework. Sometimes I will just grab a book and read till 1am. I know it is not good, but I need it, a quiet time all for myself, no nagging, no TV sound, no radio…

  4. Seems I am not the only one who has trouble going to bed. I even reduce my coffee intake so I can go to bed early, still it didn’t help. Once, I have to take sleeping tablet.
    Recently, I plan to move to smaller house, I have to get rid some of the furniture, home decorations and alike that were belongs to my late mother. Every time I am unable to sleep, I took pictures of those stuffs and sell them online in local website. (it is like ebay dot com, but local). Somebody’s trash turns out to be another’s man treasure.

  5. I am the very opposite of a night owl, but I still totally get this – the need for quiet alone time, when you feel like your work is finished for the day and you can just relax. I need sleep, too, but I used to get a lot of this kind of time after the kids were in bed – they have early bedtimes. Now the older two are staying up late – later than I want to! – and so my “me time” has gone out the window, and I miss it. I guess it’s time to face the fact that I should just get up at 5 a.m. – easier for me than staying up past 10 – and help myself to a giant coffee and have my me time then.

    But my bed is so nice and warm in the morning! Sigh.

    • I find many people in Ottawa are morning people. I’ve always wondered why… no where else I’ve seen classes or events scheduled so early. I struggled with that when Mark was a baby, because “mothers and babies” gathering were often scheduled at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m., which made for a super early start (for me!) when you have to get yourself + baby ready. So I never attended! I’ve seen birthday parties for kids held in the morning as well, which is super weird for me. In France, life starts after 10 a.m., rarely before.

  6. Je comprends ce sentiment, il se passe tjs une bonne heure entre le moment où je me dis que je vais me coucher et celui où j’y vais effectivement 🙂

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