Our Definitions Of Fun Are Different...And I Can't Believe It Either, But That's OKAY.
I’m 17 and I don’t really go out.
Some people my age have drunk alcohol, taken drugs, had sex. For some, staying up late means going to bed at around 2:00 in the morning, without ever checking the time, falling asleep on someone else’s couch, piled on with other bodies—in other words, being indiscriminate about where you put yourself, because you can be comfortable anywhere. This is crazy, but it feels good in the moment. It feels like, hey, me and my friends are in our own little world. I do not want that life. But where others go out “on the town” and lose themselves, I am firmly stuck to myself with superglue.
There is an attitude towards those who take care of themselves in this way. When you are very young, you go to bed on time because your parents make you. When you are an adult, “past your prime,” you go to bed on time because your body requires it. When you are between the ages of 16 to 26, generally, you do not go to bed on time because your body can handle the crap you put it through.
However, if I go to bed earlier than midnight, I am “uncool” in two ways: uncool like someone who needs to be coddled, and uncool like someone disconnected from the language and culture of their not-really contemporaries.
I used to be frustrated by the fact that I had a bedtime, when I was like, 14. It wasn’t going to bed sooner that bothered me. After all, I might spend an hour reading in bed. What bothered me was leaving my friends—or my older sister’s friends.
A few years ago, I made it a goal to become friends with all of my sister’s friends, which annoyed her greatly. She got used to it, and her friends—teenagers when I was still a child—got used to me. Card games between me and a particularly close older friend became commonplace.
My sister and her friends would still be talking—they might not go to bed much later than I, but at this moment, they were still together, chatting it up—when I was led away, into my pajamas, into the covers. I felt like I was missing something. Like they would begin their “real” conversation once I left. I know they think I’m younger than I am. Each time, I felt like I was being dragged away from the chance to get to know the real version of them—the versions they are when they don’t have to take care of anyone. But of course, I could never access that. I was the common factor. Having a bedtime bothered me not because of the night hours I was losing, but rather the connections I couldn’t make. The difference three years can make makes a molehill feel like a mountain.
Now, after a period of reflection, having a bedtime doesn’t bother me. Much like sometimes needing to be taken care of no longer bothers me.
I can’t afford to do crazy fun things. I can’t eat whatever, go to bed whenever. For my health. My disability has challenged me a lot. For a while, I needed help taking a bath. Not because I couldn’t do it, but because something unrelated set me back, and I felt helpless. I am years behind, and years ahead of my peers. I’m learning. I’m getting more and more independent every day. I’m proud of myself. I do not need to stay up past my comfort zone.
I recently joined the organization Zero Hour, an environmental justice and youth power group. We communicate mostly online, and I keep seeing posts by the core team, mentioning their setup of the Youth Climate March last summer, implying late bedtimes, and giving it their all. Zero Hour is also planning an upcoming week of action in Miami this summer. I want to make it, this summer, to really meet the people I’ve been working with. I really want to go. But I might not.
Travel is hard. Sleeping in unknown rooms is harder. Late bedtimes make me feel like sh*t the next day. The trouble with activism and ableism is that “giving it your all” tends to mean sacrificing your comfort, and I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my well-being so people understand I care about the earth. Of course I care. So I might stay home. And not go to Florida in summer. I might lose another connection. (But, then again, I might not. I’m unpredictable. Stay tuned.)
Having a bedtime no longer bothers me. What bothers me is the stigma against it. I don’t need to overwhelm myself just so you think I’m cool. Hanging out late at night is fun. But it’s not okay for me.
And that’s okay.
I need to remain comfortable for my health.
For me, that might mean missing a few timeless moments.