I believe in pulling all-nighters.
When I’m up until 4 AM studying for a biology exam, I control my actions. It is my responsibility. I decide if I want to sleep or if I want to remember the difference between Incomplete Dominance and Codominance. And usually, I end up studying to the point where even caffeine won’t keep me awake anymore. What motivates me? The prospect of being done with junior year, of getting an A in AP Bio. The desire to succeed. The knowledge that one less hour of sleep won’t make a difference in the long run, but that my grades will determine my future. And so, I don’t back down. I push myself. I work hard. I look at my twenty pages of notes, take a swig of Redbull, and press on.
Some would say that I’m an overachiever. And they’d be completely right. I sacrifice some things, like sleep, for other things, like studying. But I happen to believe in putting in extra effort, for I believe in my future. I recognize that some things are out of my control, but my academic record is not.
Sometimes I question myself. Can I do this? Physically and mentally, am I capable of being awake for even five more minutes? And every so often, the answer is No. No, I can’t keep my eyes open, let alone focus on the War of 1812. So I take a half hour nap, and then proceed with the studying. Pulling all-nighters is a way for me to test myself, to gently poke at the boundaries I’ve constructed of what I can and can’t do. Not only do I have to deal with trying to stay awake that night, I also have to deal with trying to stay awake the following day.
The first time I ever stayed up past midnight for school was in 10th grade. My Chemistry teacher had assigned a book to read as extra credit. The day before the reading was due, I decided I wanted the points. Not only was My Uncle Tungsten incredibly boring, it was also incredibly long. After bearing through many hours of the book, about halfway through, I decided to call it quits. As I lay in bed, I thought to myself, “Did I really just put myself through all that to stop now?” No, no I hadn’t. So I sat back up, turned my light back on, and read until 5 am. The next day, walking around in a 2 hours of sleep daze, I felt exhausted and accomplished. I had set a goal I thought was impossible—that my classmates had told me I couldn’t accomplish—and had followed through.
Pulling an all-nighter, as tough as it is, is what I thrive on, for it is one of the few things that only I can control. It is the only thing that depends fully on me, and I love being in charge of my life.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.