I lived and breathed the all-nighter lifestyle in college. Not the all-night parties–I was all about the all-night study sessions. With a coffee or a Red Bull in hand, I wound enter the library around 11 p.m. and leave as the sun was rising. I kept that up for four years, churning out lab reports, a thesis, and research proposals. It was an unhealthy lifestyle, but I was never once bothered by my late nights and long days. It was a means to an end, and if I ever felt fatigued, there was always another cup of coffee.
Fast-forward to my adult existence. I now complain that “Fallon” comes on too late. Just thinking about staying up past 11 p.m. is exhausting. Last week, I had to pull an all-nighter for work to get a project in by the morning deadline. Not to be dramatic, but I thought I was dying. It was worse than a hangover, and at one point, I think I hallucinated. That night was a far cry from my college self. Gone were the days of Red Bull-induced whirlpools of efficiency. The differences between the two all-nighters resemble the following.
11 p.m. – Arrive at the library with a coffee.
11:15 p.m. – Take out notes, search in vain for an outlet, and sit down to “study.”
11:45 p.m. – Take a social lap and shoot the breeze with every single person you vaguely know in the building.
12:15 a.m. – Look over your notes. Reward yourself with five minutes of social media for every minute of studying.
1:30 a.m. – Consider changing majors. Is it too late to email your professor asking for an extension? Drink another cup of coffee–your heart can handle it.
1:35 to 2:45 a.m. – Take five bathroom breaks, drink more coffee, change seats, and enjoy another social lap. Accomplish nothing.
3 a.m. – It’s getting late and you aren’t prepared. Begin panicking. Tell all your friends about how stressed you are. Spend the next block of time talking about how much you have to cram instead of doing the work.
3:30 a.m. – Drink a 12-ounce Red Bull. Sit down and blitz through your notes. You can commit anything to short-term memory. The name of the game is brain dump. You only have to know this information for seven more hours.
5:30 a.m. – Move around, stretch, catch a second wind of energy. Go back to your notes. Avoid eye contact with anyone you know. Eat a calorie-packed, processed snack. Treat your body like a garbage disposal.
7 a.m. – The sun is out. You consider cramming a bit a more, but then remember it’s an easy college course and worst case scenario, you can pass/no credit. Spend the next two hours sitting in a Starbucks drinking more coffee as you anticipate failure.
10 a.m. – Finish your test. You can confidently state you passed. You are the Rainman of short-term memory recall and wild-ass guesses. Another day, another all-nighter. You power nap in the afternoon and the cycle renews itself.
Real World All-Nighter:
9 p.m. – Check emails and come to terms with the night ahead of you.
9:15 p.m. – To brew, or not to brew a coffee, that is the question. Having a coffee this late will physically wreck you for tomorrow, but a lack of caffeine could sabotage your quality of work. Decide on coffee.
9:30 p.m. – Finish cup of coffee. Feel shaky. Organize workspace. Put on your pump-up playlist.
9:35 p.m. – Turn off pump-up playlist. Decide it’s too distracting.
10 p.m. – Consider wasting time on social media but remember that all your friends are asleep. Remind yourself that your job depends on this assignment. Panic.
11:45 p.m. – Deep into an Excel document, you forge ahead. Elect to eat a snack, knowing that you will be five pounds heavier by sunrise.
1:30 a.m. – Feel like death. Are you hallucinating? Are you flirting with a heart attack? Are you alive? You have no reassuring answers to these questions.
2:45 a.m. – You drink more coffee, fully aware that you are now just a shell of a human being. You would do a slow weep over your computer, but your body is past the point of basic functions.
3:30 a.m. – You catch a second wind when you remember that receiving paychecks is on the line.
4:15 to 4:16 a.m. – Blink for an extended period of time. That counts as going to sleep. Catch a glimpse of the light calling to you.
5:30 a.m. – Notice a jacket draped across a chair. In your tripped-out state of sleep deprivation, you think it’s a person and have a panic attack.
6:45 a.m. – Project is done, just in time for you to shower and get ready for work. What fresh hell is this?
7 a.m. – Can you drown standing upright in the shower? Do you need a Life Alert? Is it safe for you to drive to work?
8:30 a.m. – Drive to work with the radio off. Your senses are teetering on the verge of a synesthesia meltdown. A mere car horn could short out your brain.
9 a.m. – Email in the project. Spend the rest of the day clinging to the promise of a Costanza desk nap.
The promise of a paycheck will always win, so stay strong if you find yourself in a situation that calls for an all-nighter. You will survive, but just barely. Your previous ability to pull an all-nighter in college is irrelevant–your decrepit adult body does not have the stamina. Godspeed.