I didn’t sleep the night before my thesis was due. This is perhaps unsurprising to you. When it happened, it was unsurprising to me too, but it was also novel. I had never before worked through the night and not slept for at least a spell. I had worked past sunrise, but always saved time for a nap. On the night before my thesis was due, I didn’t sleep, and continued not to sleep until 4:30PM the next day. I was awake for about 32 continuous hours.
I expected to spend the night awake. I knew it would happen, and I planned for it. At the start of the night, I had many hours’ worth of work to do, and the night contained the last of those hours available before my deadline. I had no choice but to use them. At 1:30 am, I feared that I had planned incorrectly, and that the hours I had were insufficient. I feared I would not finish my work, and I sweat. I was surprised and worried by my corporeal response to a nonphysical source of stress. My body was well-fed and seated comfortably, yet it was suffering. At 6:30 am, I looked out of my window and saw the sun orange, mid-rise. This surprised me too, but did not worry me. It was comforting to witness a rebirth and to imagine my own impending metamorphosis from thesis slave to regular human student.
The hours between diaphoresis and daybreak had been furious and industrious. I remember little about them, but I recall a distinct feeling: I knew that I had a task to fulfill that required my consciousness and labor and concentration, and I knew that I would supply those things until it was complete. It was an experience that required my effort and that I had no choice but to undergo.
One month earlier, I underwent a psychedelic trip. The trip began at midnight and ended at about 4:30 am. I had tripped before and knew that it required the devotion of a number of hours, but I didn’t think about that when I ingested the mushrooms.
Immediately after eating them, I hoped they wouldn’t work. When they kicked in, I freaked out and found myself drenched in sweat. I became surprised and worried by my sweat, and feared that my body was beyond the control of my mind. I settled down and recovered and ceased to perspire, and I realized that I was beginning a significant period of time in an altered state. I decided that I needed to make peace with my fate because it would happen to me regardless of whether or not I wanted it to. I reasoned that if I was going to trip, I might as well do my best to enjoy it and/or learn from it. I discovered that I initially feared the trip (and hoped it wouldn’t work and freaked out when it began) because I was distressed about the time that the trip was cutting out of my thesis schedule. I acknowledged that I could no longer write or sleep during these four hours, and that acknowledgment liberated me and allowed me to immerse myself in the experience. When I came down, I felt as if I had excised a malignant growth from my psyche. I had detached my thesis stress, examined it for what it was, and disposed of it.
My emotional experience of the trip and my emotional experience of the night before my thesis deadline were uncannily similar. The trip was not a flashback or recreation of the night before my deadline because the latter had not yet occurred. Instead, the night before my deadline was an imitation of my trip. My trip was, then, prophetic: it accurately predicted the precise arc and bouquet of emotions that I would later undergo on the night before my deadline. Sometimes I believe there is great truth to be found in narcotics.