By Chituru Weje.
In my first year in university, going to classrooms to read overnight, popularly called “TDB” (Till Day Break) was the rave. The only time I had done “TDB” prior to then was in my final class in Secondary school when I stayed up all night copying a note by candlelight just so that I could ‘feel among’, as my classmates had been talking about it.
When I entered university everyone around me seemed to be going for “TDB”, so I went too. Every night, we would leave the hostel at 10 pm when Dan Etete hostel gates (name of my hostel) were locked and return at 5 am when the gates were reopened.
We would arrive the lecture rooms at Ofrima hall (a hall in the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria) armed with our chewing gums, biscuits and water (I was not doing coffee yet). Our “TDB” usually entailed spending about an hour settling in, an hour reading, after which we would stroll for about 30 minutes checking out other people whose reading seemed to be going better than ours had been and calling them ‘Jacko’, a term reserved for nerds.
It seemed though, that some people’s “TDB” comprised solely of examining others who came to read without doing any apparent reading themselves. I would then attempt to resume reading after the break, but after about 30 minutes, my body would give in to the fatigue and I would lie down on the hard bench to sleep.
I would sleep from then till 5 am when the hostel gates were re-opened, and would wake up feeling like a truck ran over me. Then myself and the crew would return to the hostel to have a quick bath and return to MBA 1, Ofrima Hall for an early morning lecture.
You had to return quickly, before 6 am else you would either sit on the edge of the podium, or stand on the aisle or outside the window. Yes, the learning conditions were deplorable, but that is not the subject for today. One senior colleague who used to come motivate myself and my classmates academically said that we should not spend too much time sleeping.
Sleeping too much would let your life slip past you and one should not spend more than 4 hours per day on sleep. I began to focus on reducing my body’s sleep ration; more than 6 hours was an abomination, less that 4 hours was the target. Before long, I found myself sleeping during lectures very often.
One time, I woke up at the end of the English lecture to notice that my textbook was missing. I never found it again. One day, during a Physics lecture, the lecturer had only just started speaking when I felt the warm arms of sleep embracing me. I decided to fight him! How could I continue being bodily present in class but spiritually absent? I forced myself to stay awake by sheer willpower, but it did not work.
Then I stepped out to get something to chew on, but the sleep embraced me tighter, as though I were a long-lost lover. Me, sleep? No way I was gonna let that happen. Enough was enough! I remembered a Tom and Jerry episode I had watched as a child where Tom had inserted a matchstick in his eye to keep his eyelids from coming together. There was no matchstick, so I made do with my hands.
One hand to each eye, thumbs beneath the lower lids, index fingers on the upper lids, to keep the both of them from kissing. I had found my solution! Then I woke up. I had slept for about 30 minutes and by the time I woke, the class was almost being rounded up. I just felt so weak. And of course, immediately the lecturer stepped out, my sleep-lover abandoned me and my alertness returned.
I wish I could say that was the last time I did “TDB”, but it probably took a bit longer before I learnt how my body worked and began to stay in my lane. Now if someone tells me ‘If you sleep 8 hours a day, by the time you are 60, you would have spent 20 years of your life sleeping’, I tell them, ‘I would also have spent 40 years awake!
If I cannot achieve something in those 40 years, it is not in the remaining 20 that I will achieve it.’
Summary? Man, know thyself!
Chituru Weje is a physician who, loves to laugh, love, and live life fully.
She also likes to tell stories of the funny commas in her life.