I sit in bed with my journal, a book, and a bowl of cereal just about every night. I’m one of those writers who finds a pen or pencil a bit more inspirational than a computer screen. My husband sits at his desk in the corner of our bedroom, headphones plastered to his ears and his foot tapping to the new beat flowing from his soul. We burn the midnight oil together, again and again.
We’re the ones who had a joint quarter-life crisis a couple of years ago and decided we were going to finally pursue the things we love to do. For me, that meant writing; for him, it meant going back to school for a music degree. But with four kids and much needed 9-5 jobs, it also meant that we’d have to sacrifice sleep, and sometimes sanity, to make time for our creative endeavors.
Thus, we burn that midnight oil.
It sounded really glamorous at first. The thought of me becoming an author, a poet, a writer of any kind. The dream of him owning his own studio and mixing and recording great artists. The two of us just living our best lives and kissing the mundane world goodbye. How lovely!
What’s not quite as lovely is my third (or fourth) day of unwashed hair or my husband’s irritating snore, a result of his pure exhaustion. I can’t even count how many times I’ve fallen asleep with a pen in my hand, or how many times I’ve irritably yelled at my husband to stop making weird noises while he’s playing the bass at midnight.
But the truth is we wake up every morning excited to do it all again. Thrilled to do what we love and laughing at the unattractive side effects of pushing ourselves. It’s worth it.
It’s not worth it because of some unrealistic expectations of becoming famous or making billions of dollars (although we wouldn’t necessarily reject those notions either, specifically the money). It’s worth it because we’ve decided it is. We’ve decided that late nights, early mornings, and minor sacrifices are worth the pure joy we get from writing or making music.
A lot of people would think our schedule is ridiculous, and we should just wait until our kids are older to think about doing something different. Or maybe we should give up on silly dreams altogether. And that’s okay because burning the midnight oil is not for everyone.
It might be for you if you can’t stop thinking about that thing you want to create, but don’t have time to do during normal business hours. It might be for you if you are okay with sacrificing a little sleep to finish something that matters to you or something that might inspire others. It just might be for you if you are passionate enough to keep going when it’s normal to stop.
It’s not about pushing yourself so hard that you crack under the pressure. There are plenty of nights my husband and I opt to skip the work and catch up on a Netflix series or simply sleep. We need a pause, and that’s okay! We know the line between passionate and insane (most of the time).
It’s about deciding that something is worth your time and effort to see it come to life. The truth is that the thing that’s beckoning you to pursue it is probably not just for you. There are plenty of people (including our children) who need us to try a little harder because the result of our efforts will impact them, too.
So, if you are ready to burn the midnight oil to accomplish your goal, go back to school, or pursue a dream, know that you’re not alone. Our lights are on, too. And when you get hungry around midnight, a bowl of cereal is, hands down, the best option!
Featured Image by Peter Mason