Living life out of synch with other people

It’s six in the morning and I’m awake. Not because I get up early, but because I stay up late. A few days ago I had bad insomnia, and it has thrown off my sleep schedule yet again. I wish I could settle into an early-bird routine like those office workers!

My temporal habits lead me to go for walks around 11pm. The stores are all closed and the few people out on the street acknowledge me as a fellow denizen of the night. Or maybe they think I’m weird, but they aren’t actually bugging me about it so I don’t care. This is just one of many ways I have lived my life out-of-synch with the schedules other people follow.

I’m not just referring to my different diurnal cycle, but also my life path. I’ve done some things earlier in life than my peers (I bought a house in my late 20s) and some things later (I did my Master’s degree in mid-40s while other students were in their 30s). There are no rules about when to do these things, but being out of synch can cause some difficulties: my young friends couldn’t recommend a plumber for that house, and my young classmates didn’t have as much career experience to apply to our group projects.

Starting to date in adulthood, instead of adolescence, is a big example of living on an uncommon life path. In their 2001 research, Denise Donnelly’s team found that involuntary celibacy led to people living life “off time” instead of making the “normative sexual transitions” that move most people from adolescent experimentation to long-term adult partnerships.

People might be late bloomers or inexperienced, partly because we don’t feel obliged to follow all of the expectations society sets for when we should reach certain milestones. I didn’t even consider going to the high-school prom, and I didn’t expect or want to be married. I never got on the Relationship Escalator, but I did eventually find love.

I value being a little different, but it can be a struggle to find people who understand my life choices and circumstances. When working with people who conform better to normalcy, I don’t reveal much about my personal life – they have a hard enough time grokking my sleep schedule!


Alana is the organizer of, the founder of the Love Not Anger project, and the creator of the original "involuntary celibacy" support website in 1997. This post expresses her own views; she is not a mental-health professional or dating expert.
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