In college, I put my head on my pillow and I fell asleep. I didn't need help turning off my conscious mind. Then, I began the march towards adulthood and pesky nighttime ruminations ruined my ability to drift off. I needed something to distract me from myself, and that something became TV. I'd load up a show on my laptop, turn down the volume to one bar, dim the screen and let the familiar voice of Cosmo Kramer or Michael Scott silence the mental noise. In my 20s, I grew up, and conked out, with Netflix and assorted video-streaming websites by my side. Here are some of my viewing choices.
Age 22: House
I drove home from college on June 26, 2008 with a Latin-inscribed diploma, fleece for every occasion and an idealistic notion of my professional future as...something fulfilling and lucrative. Then I applied for entry-level jobs that got sucked up by the recession like plywood hoovered by a tornado. I didn't get much use out of my boxy interview suit, but I did get acquainted with anxiety, insomnia and the gravelly American accent used by Hugh Laurie to play Gregory House, M.D., the misanthrope and diagnostic visionary who's supplied most of my medical knowledge. At 3am, I'd lie awake in my childhood bedroom, emotionally pruned and sucker-punched by adulthood, and listen to House realize that a sociopathic CEO was hurdling towards death because of sarcoidosis or an allergy to black tar, not something obvious like bone cancer.
Age 23: Any season of any era-defining American comedy I could stream on whatever came before tv-links.eu
I sold clothes and took on Cragislist freelance gigs and interviewed for writing positions at publications that I'm not sure existed in the first place. I stayed at bars late and split 99-cent pizza with my dog while the season four finale of "The Office" — streamed on some site that somehow ducked the FCC — loaded on my MacBook (and, likely, riddled it with viruses). Still wearing patterned tights, I drifted off to Ally McBeal's neurotic inner monologues. Overheated from falling asleep in tights, I woke up to not-quite-loaded blips of Larry David's neurotic grievances.
Age 24: Repeat viewings of Mumblecore movies I meant to rent (but accidentally bought) on iTunes
I wanted to be a writer, so, naturally, I avoided my instinct and went to law school. I moved into an apartment directly behind the law school building, which meant I fell asleep and woke up to the sight of yet another misstep in my squiggly path to becoming a real person. I half-heartedly outlined strict liability cases, wishing I were penning coming-of-age screenplays instead. I tuned out my existential dread with the sound of white people prattling on about their own existential dread.
Age 25: Old seasons of Parks and Recreation, Community and Pretty Little Liars
Why this assortment? Well, if you ask me, former-law-students-slash-paralegals-slash-hopeful-screenwriters should simultaneously drool their way through slow-wave sleep and absorb the writerly chops of the weirdos and geniuses responsible for structurally perfect sitcoms. As for the riveting tween drama? The only way to make sense of garbage plotlines, and figure out the identity of a certain text-message-wielding psychokiller, is through repeat viewings of the best nonsense on a non-premium cable network.
Age 26: House of Cards, The Newsroom
This time around, I chose an industry known for stable work and high salaries: journalism. During 18 months of J-school, I spent most hours of each day learning and sweating over my craft, in hopes of making it my career. I logged very few hours sleeping, but made plenty of time to "hatewatch" fictional depictions of young-ish women who'd done the whole craft-career thing. Armed with the words of Beau Willimon and Aaron Sorkin, these young-ish reporter types scored huge scoops and screwed sources and talked circles around industry veterans. When would it be my turn?
Age 27: Preachers Daughters
And here we are: The year I learned that freelance journalists need daily exposure to human adults. Left to my own devices, I turned to Lifetime and its heartland docu-reality series about teen girls who briefly risk their relationships with Jesus to smoke pot, birth children and threaten the pursuit of porn careers. Then they snap out of it, don cardigans and file into first-row pews. I, however, did not end my year by finding the lord. I found something I wanted more: an office with people in it. And I felt #blessed.
Age 28: Serial
I know, it's a podcast. And it didn't put me to sleep because who the F falls asleep during Serial? No one with a curious mind and access to Reddit. When I tuned in to Serial, I stayed up late, paying close attention to every one of Sarah Koenig's pregnant pauses and reflective tangents. Then, I stayed up later, reading whatever theories I could find about Adnan Sayed, his shit-for-brains legal team and Koenig's disproportionate focus on a butt dial that couldn't be verified.
Age 29: Making a Murderer, The Bachelor Franchise
Confession: I saw episode four of the acclaimed Netflix documentary somewhere between four and six times and I still had no idea what was going on. Because I fell asleep quickly. Maybe the show was more meh than everyone said? Maybe I'm not wired for high-quality programming? Maybe I would have become engrossed if I were awake and paying attention? Unclear, but I do know that I pass out similarly quickly while watching career "Bachelor" contestants string together malapropisms and assess the strength of their romantic connections, and I still know exactly what's going on in every rose ceremony the "Bachelor" franchise has to offer.
What did I learn from 8 years of TV in bed? Well, as Timothy Riggins, football dreamboat and lonestar-state devotee, once said, "Texas late-night blue light forever."
This post has been updated.