A few weeks ago I attended a Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Conference in New York City.
I debated for weeks if I should go. The conference itself is expensive, especially if you schedule a professional critique (which I did). I’m also not a fan of NYC because I find the people, noise, pollution, and general BIG CITY ENERGY exhausting.
This would also be my first conference since before the pandemic. I haven’t used my brain in ways this conference would require FOR YEARS. There’s been no navigating a subway system or reading train tables or walking along city blocks. Any trips I have been on always included Heath, my best and favorite co-pilot.
Heath, however, needed to stay in Norfolk because we were taking care of Fergus for the month, so I was on my own.
The conference itself took place at the Mid-town Hilton. I, however, opted to stay at my friend’s uninhabited apartment on the upper west side, which she so generously offered me. I celebrated my economical ways at the time of planning my conference trip, as well as my good fortune for having a friend with an apartment that overlooked Central Park.
What I did not take into account was what it would be like to be at an all-day conference and not have a hotel room an elevator ride away in which I could take a nap. My friend’s apartment was two subway lines and approximately 30 minutes away.
So by the time I found myself in NYC for the conference, grumpiness had infiltrated every nook and cranny of my attitude. I did not want to be there. I did not want to be trapped in a windowless, below ground conference room for two days. I did not want to make small talk. I did not want to have to pay attention and focus on someone speaking for hours at a time.
Yet, I did anyway. I paid for the conference, and, by golly, I would participate.
By the time I got back to my friend’s apartment that Saturday night, I wanted Heath to come pick me up. Nothing about the experience was what I wanted, and I didn’t think it would get better.
Spoiler alert: I was right. About the conference.
But something unexpected did happen. That night in my friend’s apartment, I had an AMAZING night’s sleep. I woke up on Sunday morning feeling like a new person. There was no tiredness. No reluctance in getting up. No fractured sleep to weigh me down. No traumatic dreams to work through.
How did that happen? Not only was I in a bad mood, but the apartment was hot. I had forgotten my ear plugs. I ate deviled eggs I had bought at Whole Foods and gobbled a few up right before bed. Everything about my environment and my choices suggested a poor night’s sleep.
By Sunday night, I was back to truly awful sleep. Since then, I’ve had a few nights of okay sleep. But nothing like the magical 9+ hours I had in NYC.
Back in 2007 when the final installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, At World’s End, came out in theaters, I became incensed by the ending. I had invested four years in that story only for Keira Knightley’s character, Elizabeth Swann, to be separated from Orlando Bloom’s character, Will Turner, for the rest of her life. Oh, wait. No. He could visit her EVERY 10 YEARS.
That anger is how I feel about my sleep right now. Because the last time I had sleep equivalent to what I had in NYC was in October 2013 when I was dogsitting in Naperville, IL.
Have I been cursed to only get good sleep every 10 years?
I hope not. I can’t decide if my magical NYC sleep is a good thing or not. It’s awesome to know my body is capable of that kind of sleep. But for it to be so elusive, so unpredictable, and so unattainable on a regular basis is cruel.
I started having sleep trouble when I was three years old. Enough is enough, already.
Though I can’t help but wonder – what if living in NYC has been the answer all along for a good night’s sleep?
For someone who loves the woods, the mountains, and the rugged New England coast, that would be quite the kick in the pants. I don’t think we’re going to up and move to NYC any time soon. But it will be interesting to see if I can figure out what made that night so special.
If you have any hypotheses, please let me know!