Thoughts, Words, Works

A Debt Which Can Never Be Repaid @

Nishizono Mio asleep with a book

Ah, sleep. One of the great mysteries of life. A state in which we spend a third of our time, doing seemingly nothing. A necessity and yet the first thing to get trimmed from our schedule when push comes to shove. Wild plans exist for those who want to do more with less. But nothing can do away with this essential dead spot in every day.

I think it was about 4 or 5 years ago, around my freshman year in college, that I noticed how my sleep schedule worked. No matter what time I went to bed, if left unattended, I spend about 9 hours, including the time it took to fall asleep and to get out of bed. If I cut that short with an alarm and something to do, it would come back later. I would get out of class feeling hazy and end up dozing off for just about long enough to make my total sleep time 9 hours. I read that the best way to reduce wasted time sleeping was to stick to a consistent schedule, but with the dorm experience, that was not particularly viable. There was one up-side to this, however; I discovered that when my sleep schedule is broken and insufficient is when I have the most interesting and memorable dreams, a fact that remains true today. (Last night's, or rather, this morning's humdinger involved a huge condor, nearly getting attacked by a wild tiger, $5 gas, and a prototype 17-inch iPad. Go figure.)

During the summer, while working a regular office job, I had some success. I could sleep from about 1am until about 8 every work day, and sometimes, on Saturdays and Sundays, if I had something to do like attending No Name Anime then I wouldn't end up catching up on lost sleep over the weekend. But it grew unpleasant. I wouldn't sleep at work, but I wanted to, and I would find myself unable to concentrate, spacing out and nursing a mild headache into the early afternoon hours. It was an untenable schedule, and when college resumed, it came to an end.

It's now been a year and a half since graduation, and a little less than that long since I've been working a full-time, 40-hours-a-week job. I'm lucky enough that my job is flexible about when I go into the office and when I leave. The time I most often arrive at work is a lazy 10:30 in the morning, though the deviations are earlier more commonly than later. I try to sleep no later than 1am, but as of late that deadline has been breached more often than not. There's always something more to do: a blog post that takes 3 hours to write, one last game of StarCraft II, the movie that I really wanted to watch but couldn't start until 1am... There's always something, and I know it would be harder to do if I woke up earlier, so I sleep later... and wake up later. Then come the days when I have no schedule to keep, and my sleep debt comes knocking for payments in full. A 10-hour night's rest is garnished with multiple hour-long naps, and my weekend melts away into unconsciousness punctuated by outings with friends. My personal time productivity sinks into nonexistence and I feel myself the worse for it.

One repeat culprit in the crime of damaging my sleep schedule is Little Busters!, the Key game that I've been haltingly progressing through for now over a year using Rikai-chan and my limited grasp of Japanese. On the upside, I can feel how much this has contributed to a massive improvement in my overall Japanese skill. But as for the downside, Little Busters! is a pretty massive amount of reading to begin with, and multiplying that by my extremely inadequate Japanese reading speed means that each path feels like an eternity to its own. And although I have the EX version, with 3 additional characters, my goal at this point is only to finish the paths for the original 6 girls, and -- God willing -- the "Secrets of the World" after story segment, which I'm told is just hours of reading with almost no voice or pictures. As of last night, I've read the scenarios for Komari, Kudryavka, Haruka, and Mio, which leaves just Yui and Rin before Secrets of the World unlocks.

The problem of Little Busters! is twofold. One side is that, being essentially a novel in digital form, there's no real indication of how much more story remains. As the individual stories (in particular, those of Kudo and Mio) feel like they're nearing their conclusions, I become engrossed and want to read to the end, but unlike when this happens with a paperback novel, I don't have the rational counterpoint that tells me there are 150 pages left and I should finish another time. The remainder is a mystery, guessable only by the tone of the current scene, which is often misleading, and I inevitably underestimate it. The other half of the problem with Little Busters! is the opposite. Oftentimes, the plot progresses slowly, even before taking into account the glacial pace at which I am reading it, and although many of these seemingly meaningless scenes have a crucial impact to the later story, I find myself identifying with the main character Riki's illness... of narcolepsy. It doesn't help that I usually play the game in bed: the result is that Little Busters! provides a perfect opening for the sleep debt demons to claim their payment.

That said, I have no intention of giving up on Little Busters! until I've accomplished my goal. My reading ability and speed have slowly improved, and more importantly, I've been enjoying the game a lot. It may not have as much impact as the last Key work I read, but it has a little bit of that same magic, a beauty I am loathe to relinquish. So I guess I am destined to clash with my fundamental need for sleep, in the pursuit of my desires. Perhaps the crazy dreams that are born from the conflict will become the inspiration for more unique stories. Whatever the case, I can only hope that I manage to use my time well and that I avoid total sleep bankruptcy. In the meantime, there's another basic need I'm forgetting -- food. So with that, I'm off to find some brunch.


User Comments

Blake @2010-10-10 23:18:19

Or you can wait 2 weeks and it goes away on its own!

Unless of course you've accumulated more sleep debt in the meantime :-P

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