A letter to my wife about changing my late night routine

Secretly, in the late night hours, I’ve been changing. You know our usual routine during school: I go to campus, then come home for dinner around 5pm and have some family time before trudging into our home office to knock out some more homework. By around 11pm, I’m beat. I wrap up my work and you’re in the next room, staying busy while you wait for me. But I’ve worked so hard that day, I deserve a little time to relax, right?

You would certainly agree.

So I log into Facebook, scroll through my news feed, catch up on my friends’ well-photographed lives and find a few funny videos. Nothing bawdy or lascivious, but I do slip on my headset so I can hear the videos without making you worry that I’m wasting time—I’m not wasting time, I’m using it to reenergize after a long day! And I know that you know I wouldn’t be taking this break if I didn’t need it. So I watch a few videos on my way down the world wide rabbit hole. I stay a little longer than I’d planned, but now I have such interesting nothings I can share with you! Not only have I relaxed, but I can improve our lives with my newfound trivia about underwater welding near Costa Rica. You love interesting stories!

And so it goes each night, having exhausted myself with algorithmic offerings, I slowly turn my attention to you and offer what’s left of my energy—the equivalent of a pixelated cat video frozen on a blurry frame, buffering endlessly. Reboot with a night of sleep and read from the same script the next day.

But remember my secret, darling?

Three weeks ago, I made a conscious swap: YouTube for You. Facebook for Your Face. When I finished my homework each night, I left my headset on its hook, sent my computer to sleep, and turned my full attention to you. Ahh, you’re nodding. You noticed.

[km_pullquote align=”right”]In the end, the bright colors of social media left my eyes dimmer.[/km_pullquote]At school, we learned about Kegan’s model for change. I realized that my nightly escapes, while seemingly innocuous, were energy traps. My hidden assumption was that they would make me more creative, give me interesting stories to tell, reconnect me with my friends, and ultimately give me energy. But as I sat in self-examination, I came to find what should have been obvious given the medium: my social media nightcap was a search not for videos, but for friendship—for connection. You and I have talked before about how much I thrive on the energy of human interaction. But with every status, every comment, and every video, the stand-in for true human interaction gave me counterfeit energy. In the end, the bright colors of social media left my eyes dimmer.

To make the switch, I had to overcome some obstacles, so I turned to a clever six-cell model that addresses sources of influence. Personally, I was motivated to stop being bogged down by the lethargy my nightly forays produced. In the past, I had put away similar habits so I had the ability to recognize what was happening and physically hit the sleep button. Socially, you were in the next room over, waiting for me to finish my work. If I spoke up when I finished, then you would come in the office and both consciously and unknowingly rescue me from my energy trap. Structurally, I started leaving the office door open to increase the aural connection between our physical locations and I stopped reaching for my headphones—a sure sign of imminent video consumption.

There were a couple of nights with my headset on. But with persistence and by consistently pondering my motivations, I became more present for you. As I finished my work each night, I felt two prongs of success: one, for finishing a hard day of mental work, and two, for skipping the energy trap of counterfeit human connection. And as a wonderful bonus, I discovered an energy ritual to replace the nightly trap: you, my best friend, ready all along to like and share with me the fascinating stories from our own lives.