I like to think I’m doing pretty well in life, as evidenced by the fact that I am not in jail for armed robbery and/or carrying the child of a Nicaraguan drug lord and/or attending Boise State University. Even though I relied on Wikipedia for many a gen-ed essay in college, and every diet I’ve ever been on has only lasted for about two weeks, and I use Pirate Bay with relish, overall I am not an objectionably terrible person. That being said, I’ve always been obsessed with self-improvement. I’m late to everything that occurs before noon, I’m too lazy to work out on exactly 80% of days that I think about doing it, and I frequently put off important tasks in favor of NBC comedies that I’ve seen five times already. I know I could be more pro-active and I could use my time better, but I just don’t wanna.
The Internet tells me that the reason I try and fail at self-improvement (i.e. daily journaling, eating healthy, becoming a famous actress who meets The Rock during an appearance on The Ellen DeGenres Show and then marries him and has beautiful half-Samoan babies who then grow up to play football for the University of Oregon and get drafted to the Green Bay Packers, etc.) is because my goals are unattainable. Basically, instead of saying “I will drink water every time I have a sugar craving,” I say, “I wanna lose 25 pounds!” Instead of saying, “I will set aside 15 minutes a day for reflection,” I say, “I will write the world’s greatest novel and there will be a cardboard cutout of me in Barnes & Noble!” So, I know now that if I want to change, I have to do it slowly. Meeehhhhh.
Here I am in the Peace Corps, a life decision that has resulted in many BIG changes for me. I’ve had no choice but to adapt to those changes, and in the process, I’ve changed as a person. I’m more confident and flexible and outgoing because of these changes, and I’ve had fun “re-inventing” myself while I’ve been here, so I figure why not “re-invent” some of the bad habits I had in the US? Now that I have the time to focus on things that I didn’t have time to focus on during my busy life in the States, and I’m in the right mindset to improve myself, I might as well give it a shot. Every month for the remaining 22 of my service, I’m going to pick something that I can improve on and try to make a difference by the end of the month. So what’s first for August 2013?
In Albanian, there is a separate verb for waking up (zgjohem), as in opening one’s eyes and coming to consciousness after sleeping, and getting up (ngrihem), as in physically getting one’s ass out of bed and starting the day. I am very grateful for this distinction because they are two very different things to me. In fact, on an average morning there’s probably about an hour and a half between the time that I zgjohem and the time that I ngrihem.
I hate, hate, HATE getting up in the mornings. The process of waking up from a deep sleep and removing myself from a comfortable bed is my least favorite thing in the world, closely followed by baby showers, scorpions, and Boise State football. I never have enough time to do what I need to do and get out the door when I’m supposed to because high school and college wreaked havoc on my sleep schedule and I’ve never recovered. Unfortunately, my habit of getting to bed too late and waking up way behind schedule has followed me to the Peace Corps.
My biggest problem is that I have a hard time winding down before bed, which then makes me fall asleep late, which then causes me to get up late and be forced to rush around in the mornings. I just can’t seem to shut my brain off at night; I’m always stressing and projecting and predicting what I need to do in the upcoming day, week, month, etc. But here’s what I’m up against specifically in Albania: it’s swelteringly hot during the summer in Kavajë, mosquitoes are always buzzing around me regardless of whether or not I sleep under a net, and there are these wood-munching beetles that live in the walls and make this “chomp chomp chomp” sound. (I’ve never seen one because they don’t come outside but here’s a terrifying picture of one.) These things, along with the occasional mid-night political rally or rowdy wedding party, make it even more challenging to get to sleep here.
Here’s how an average morning for me in Albania usually transpires:
6:00am: First alarm (on my government-issued 2001-era cell phone) goes off. “Hey, cool, I get an extra hour to sleep!” *press snooze*
6:30am: Awake from a partially-asleep state to a second alarm. “Okay, I can sleep for another half hour, but then I really have to wake up.” *press snooze again*
7:00am: “I should get up…………………….Nope.” *press snooze again*
7:30am: “Ahhh okay I really have to get up now!”
7:31am: Get on the internet in an attempt to wake my brain and see what, if anything, occurred while I was sleeping. “So-And-So got engaged?! She’s, like, eighteen and a half!”
7:39am: Get off of Facebook. Make breakfast.
7:42am: Eat breakfast while scrolling through Pinterest, looking for other breakfast recipes. (I REALLY LIKE BREAKFAST)
7:47am: Frantically pick something out of my closet to wear while panicking because I only have 13 minutes before I should be out the door.
7:50am: “Which is more important, makeup or hair?” *look in the mirror* “Yeah, hair’s not happening today.” *put hair in “messy bun”* *remember to thank whoever is In Charge Of Fashion for declaring that the “messy bun” is now in style*
7:53am: *rub a lil’ eyeshadow and mascara over eyes* Any other makeup I wear will melt off of my face.
7:57am: “WHERE IS MY PURSE??!!!”
7:59am: “Oh, here it is.” *leave apartment, lock door*
8:02am: Forgot my government-mandated 2001 cell phone. *run back and grab it*
8:04am: Forgot to lock the door. *run back and lock it*
8:05am: One of my neighbors decides that NOW is a great time to have a drawn-out conversation in Shqip about my family, my marital status, and how much money I make.
8:08am: “By the time I get to school, I’ll only be 12 minutes late!”
This is going to take some work. Like generating interest in summer classes, or combating my laid-back personality in order to break the ice with my Albanian neighbors and co-workers, or trying to explain in Shqip why I bring my own bag to the store instead of taking a plastic one, I have to be persistent but patient. And like everything I do in Peace Corps, I know I need a plan. I did some research on improving sleep patterns this week and I took some tips I liked from different articles and blogs I came across. Here are the ground rules I’m going to begin with:
- No naps during the day. :’( :’( :’( </3 Difficult, because everything in Kavajë shuts down between the hours of 2:00pm-5:00pm a) because you will die from heat exhaustion and b) everyone is napping because it’s too hot to do anything else. BUT, I have a secret weapon called B-52, a delicious Dutch
concoction of chemicalsenergy drink that will keep me awake until dinnertime!
- Be in bed at least 9 hours before I have to wake up, with no computer to distract me, because I WILL look at pictures of The Rock and google things like “is it normal to have scabs from mosquito bites?” for three hours.
- Prepare for the morning: have everything I need in the same spot, including my outfit for work the next day. And an alternate outfit just in case it makes me look fat.
- Spend 30-60 minutes winding down, whether it’s reading or writing or playing sudoku on my 2001 A.D. phone or whatever.
- Lights out at 8 hours before my alarm, and they don’t come back on. No computer, and especially no iPod because I always end up picking club music like Beyonce hits or Albanian pop songs and it gets me all riled up and then I have to pee and then my mind starts wandering and I end up watching four episodes of 30 Rock in a row and then it’s 3:30am and I start panicking which makes going to sleep harder.
- None of this three/four/five alarms business. I realized that although I think I’m getting “extra sleep,” my brain has already been woken up by the first alarm so the “sleep” that I’m getting between alarms one and two isn’t quality at all. It’s just a waste of time. If I set one alarm, I can’t justify staying in bed or else I’ll just keep pressing snooze.
- Remember that because I’ve posted this on my blog, I have to actually follow through with it, meaning that I can’t bail because the two people who ready my blog* will be SO disappointed!
So, here goes nothing! By September 1st I will have conquered my REM cycle and moved on to another challenge. Feel free to join me during my challenge if getting to bed and waking up earlier is something you want, too!
*The two people who read my blog are my mom and a random Austrian person who clicked on it by accident.