In August, we bring a set of new full-time writers to the blog. Today, please welcome Noah Keene (’21), who will be writing for us on the 14th of each month. Noah graduated from Calvin University in December 2021 with a major in creative writing and a minor in Spanish. He currently resides in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. He spends his free time reading and putting his major to good use by working on his first novel. See what he’s reading by following him on Instagram @peachykeenebooks and read his other personal writing by going to thekeenechronicles.com.
I don’t remember the first night of the summer of 2019 that I pulled off an effortless all-nighter.
All I know is the old mantra: Once, it’s an accident. Twice, a coincidence. Three times, it’s a pattern. So, when I had a third night where I laid for hours, staring at the ceiling, checking and re-checking my phone, reading a few pages of the book on my desk to try and tire my brain out, I concluded: you, good sir, are an insomniac.
Even after those three sleepless nights (and even now to this day), I was reluctant to use the words insomnia or insomniac. When I think of insomnia, I think of someone slapping themselves awake at work, a sea of empty coffee cups, and resentful glances at one’s bed. The problem wasn’t that I couldn’t sleep, but that I couldn’t sleep when I was supposed to. It became routine that summer to spend the night circulating the second floor of my house, going from bathroom to bed to desk, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat. Only once the sun was rising would I stagger downstairs, flop on the couch, and be asleep within a few minutes.
When sleep isn’t an option, you quickly learn how few options you have.
I played a lot of video games that summer, but at 4 in the morning, with the den that held the PlayStation across the hall from my parents’ bedroom, hopping on Call of Duty or Uncharted wasn’t an option. I also wasn’t trying to get something to eat for similar reasons. I’d heard of the catharsis of driving late at night, but with no license or car of my own, that wasn’t an option. I was reading the painfully unfunny Catch-22 that summer, so reading left me more annoyed than tired. Once I’d exhausted all options for things to do, I’d lie there. And think.
My line of thinking tended to follow the same path. First came the things that were on my mind during daylight hours. Your boy was fresh out of luck with finding a job that summer, not for a lack of trying. So, money woes was the first stop for the Noah Keene Brain Train. Then came my manuscript, which I was two years into working on and which I often got back to work on once the sun began to rise. Third came the resentment. There was no consistent target of my irrational frustration. Sometimes it was at my family for being able to sleep when I couldn’t. My friends for going on cool summer vacations that I couldn’t. Jobs for not hiring me. Fourth and final stop before I gave up, got up, and got writing was the crisis of faith. The sleep-deprived brain is not a rational place, so when the cocktail of exhaustion and irritation shook around in my head long enough, it’d explode and geyser towards the Heavenly Father. God, I’d silently shout, is this a Job situation? Is it not enough that my summer vacation sucks, so now I can’t get away from it for eight hours? Is that what’s going on?
I never got an answer.
Life isn’t a movie, and one way real life and cinema differs is the lack of resolution at the end of the story. Bad things happen for no apparent reason, crimes go unsolved, and the sleeping disruption that’s been driving you crazy for the last three months goes away as abruptly as it showed up. Yes, once I was back on campus and situated in my apartment, I regained my circadian rhythm.
Is there a moral to this story? I don’t think so, at least not in the traditional sense. This isn’t VeggieTales and therefore a dancing computer has never hand-fed me what I should take away from my sleepless summer. What I have learned is that time heals most wounds. What at the time felt like some kind of torment is now a story I tell for a blog.
Or maybe a few months of insomnia becomes small potatoes when it’s chased by a global pandemic a few months later.
Take your pick.
Noah Keene graduated from Calvin University in December 2021 with a major in creative writing and a minor in Spanish. He currently resides in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. He spends his free time reading and putting his major to good use by working on his first novel. See what he’s reading by following him on Instagram @peachykeenebooks and read his other personal writing by going to thekeenechronicles.com.