Habit: Sleep

Kayla Escobedo Illustration Advocate. Sleep

A friend and I diverge in our attitudes about sleep. Ever the pragmatist, the utility of her sleep is a function of what it will allow her to accomplish in her waking hours. After it has served that purpose, its value quickly diminishes, and sleep as a leisure activity is little more than a waste of time. An allocative inefficiency.

Meanwhile, I think sleep has its own, self-contained merit. Ask a recreational traveler about their hobby, or maybe more accurately ask a coin collector, a wine connoisseur, for a sense of this perspective. Every interval of sleep is different, like every fingerprint. Eight-hour spans that pass like the blink of an eye, so sudden they cut you off mid-thought. Long, lazy naps that leave you feeling sick and heavy. Jagged-edged insomnia like a broken-off branch. Clean sheet sleep.

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Habit: The Key to Muscle Memory

My keychain is heavier than it needs to be. As my fingers move from the central loop outwards, keys and knick-knacks gradually become less and less important. On the central loop itself is my dorm key. One loop removed is the key to home in San Francisco, a key to 21 South Street, my CVS ExtraCare card, and a miniature rice bowl keychain I bought last summer in China. If my fingers need to dig any further in my pocket, they eventually will hit a bottle opener and pair of compressible chopsticks. It’s always good to be prepared.

I realize that my pockets could be much lighter, but the bulk of the keys together makes the keys much harder to lose. I’d rather have too much in my pockets than not enough.

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Habit: Pulsing Lights


On cold, snowy days, I like to lie in my bed, wrapped up in my blankets as if I were in a womb, and stare at the lights suspended above me. I wanted my bed to be home for me, a most special place to return to, so I turned it into a nest. I strung Christmas lights above my bed and then made a hung a canopy beneath the lights using my old, dark brown sheets. At night, when only the Christmas lights are turned on, the ceiling above resembles a constellation in the night sky.

There is a string of lights which did not make it above the canopy. It ascends from the socket and up the wall, towards the ceiling before it disappears behind the sheets. From far away the lights resemble dozens of fireflies, frozen in motion.

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Introduction: Habit

This month, we feature a series of short memoir posts centered on the theme Habit. Liza Batkin ’15, a regular contributor to Notes from 21 South Street, describes our vision for this theme below.
Unraveling Bolero, Anne Adams. Image courtesy of www.radiolab.org

We break them, develop them, build them unwittingly. They form the grooves that tunnel discretely beneath our feet and under our skin, directing our fingers, thoughts, and lips as we perform our daily tasks. They are the clandestine bureaucrats of our bodies and minds.

Habits exist on every level of living. They span the two poles of the unacknowledged: from personal tics too small to notice to global patterns too large to consider. I close my eyes when I sneeze. I highlight and de-highlight text as I read on the computer screen. I wash my hair then face then body in the shower. I wave with my hand whenever I say “hi,” despite proximity. We ask each other how we are and reply, “good.” We take more than we need. We spend more than we have. We disagree. We go to war.

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