When I was a kid, all I wanted was to be older. Or a paleontologist - but mostly just to be older. I had no concept of bills or work or the crushing banality of buying household sundries. I just wanted to be big instead of small, and to be able to run my own life.
A basic tenet of civil liberty, street star or no, is your freedom to make decisions.
According to a YouGov poll of two-thousand kids aged 8 to 15, the thing they are looking forward to most - the thing I wanted most - the thing we all wanted most - is the freedom to go to bed later.
Sometimes, I’ll sit there in bed, maybe watching a documentary or something, or looking up “cargo cults” on Wikipedia and finding that I’m still there in bed, in the dark, doing the same at 4am, and think “Oh, man. Wow. Damn. Staying up late is great.” I think back to when I was a small boy in Spider-Man jammies, crying because I wasn’t allowed to stay up to watch Friends on Channel 4 on a Friday night. I didn’t even like Friends, I just wanted to be there.
But the thing is, kids are wrong all the time. Ask one a simple question - “what is a mortgage?” - and they’ll look at you all dumb and just run off and watch a YouTuber play Gears Of War instead. They don’t know anything about the heavy toll freedom takes.
The reality is that, while it feels fun at the time, staying up late is just rubbish. I haven’t felt not tired in about eight years. It’s a constant refrain - “Yeah, I’m really knackered, actually.” - that you grow weary of hearing from friends and colleagues awfully quickly, but the realisation that you too are one of these boring, perpetually drained zombies comes much slower.
If I had my time again I’d leave all those parties a little earlier. I’d get that last train home. I’d tape the end of that disappointing movie. It’s just not worth it - the sallow eyes, the drained pallor, the contempt you have for your own mobile phone as it tortures you aware with its chirping speaker at 7am every-damn-morning. Most mornings I feel like I’m getting out of bed wearing one of those old deep-sea diver suits.
So kids, I beg you - go the fuck to sleep. I know you want to chill with the grown-ups and add more breathless entries into your SOG (Spying On Grown-Ups) Club journal but really, it’s not worth it. Enjoy sleep. Sleep more. Sleep loads. Sleep so much that your mum gets no sleep because she’s up all night googling “Does my song have ME?” Sleep so much that you miss things. Things are generally disappointing. Maybe limit yourself to one late night a week, but besides that, go to bed at 10.30pm on the dot.
I wish I did that sometimes. I’d know less about Iran-Contra and volcanoes and middling-strikers at Panathinaikos, sure, and I’d likely end up dying friendless and alone, but I’d feel great every morning. Man, I wish I felt great every morning.
(Picture: Rex Features)