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When I work, I tend to go “off-grid” for days—almost a week—at a time. My work pattern consists of 12-hour shifts from seven until seven. These times are for both the night shifts (7pm until 7am) and the day shifts (7am until 7pm) on a 10-day repeating cycle:

night, night, (24 hour break/zombie day), day, day, off, off, off, off, off – repeat

An example roster for February, the pink moon symbols denote night shift, the blue suns denote day shift and the green star is an additional day we need to do once every five weeks to make sure we work the right number of hours in a 10-week cycle.
An example roster for February

While I am off, I can be called for overtime, at any time, for any of the day or night shifts that I’m not already rostered. Our resourcing has been cut to a minimum over the years and with people getting covid or taking summer recreation leave, there is a lot of overtime. I am called for multiple shifts during my break. But I try to only accept one.

I’ve often described what I do as 95% routine and 5% panic but with the plant and equipment now ageing into its 50s, that ratio has changed. It’s more like 80% routine and 20% panic.

To be fair, panic isn’t a great way to describe it, either. In those moments when things are going wrong, or you need to respond to certain plant conditions quickly, or safely shut down a unit, the last thing you must be doing is panicking. But it does require extreme concentration and urgency in decision-making. It’s one of the things I like about the job. Situations that require analysis and reflexive responses under pressure are my catnip. Perhaps it is that I enjoy that low-level of anxious arousal, the flutter of my nervous system, and the adrenaline that’s generated when something happens.

All shift long, I make megawatts of electricity. When I finish, I go home, eat a simple meal, and sleep. Between night shifts, I sleep until approximately 4pm. Then I have about an hour and forty-five minutes before I need to leave for work. On zombie day, I sleep til noon-ish; wash work laundry in the afternoon and finish any other small jobs that need doing. After day shift, I do much of the same, only I try to sleep until 5am. If I’m not working overtime, the first day off after my round is decompression day and I don’t like to do anything. But tomorrow I have scheduled some appointments—a medical screening, a beauty salon appointment, and lunch with a friend. The rest of my time off will be spent decluttering the house, discovering what art supplies I have hidden away in storage boxes under beds, and preparing for my mother to visit. It’s been four years since I’ve seen her, and this will be her first trip to our home since I moved here in 2014. Somehow, despite my best efforts to have everything stored in its place, labelled, and easy to access, entropy always wins. It seems that nothing is where I left it.

I have been searching for days for a mantra I listened to relentlessly in 2020 and still cannot find it. YouTube seems to store history. But not all history. I don’t know why. Did I mention my mother is coming to visit?

The day G was anaesthetised and had his brain biopsy, it was almost 9pm. I put on my noise cancelling headphones, played some music at a supposedly calming frequency and went to visit him. I found him in a dark room that was not, in fact, a room, it was more like the centre of a galaxy. Though it was mostly dark. I grabbed his hand, told him he was safe, and asked him where he wanted to go. Everest, he said, and in milliseconds we were rugged up and standing on the top of the world. At which point, I turned to him and said “What are we doing here? You don’t even like the cold!”

It wasn’t the first time I’d had an out of body experience; the first was when I was 12. I was riding my cousin’s pony and jumping a gate, and on my fourth jump, the saddle slipped around as the pony leapt. I know this because I watched it. The girl slid with the saddle off to the left and I watched from behind. I bounced back into my body at the same time I hit the ground, winded, and gasping for breath.

I think of these things when I’m at work. I think about energy. Enthalpy. Entropy.

Did I mention my mother is coming to visit?

I do not understand any of it.

The generator is a magic box. I rotate a turbine using steam power and at the other end of it, electrons are forced down wires through substations into homes to power televisions. Or computers. Or phones.

Did I mention my mother is coming to visit?

I will not get a decompression day this week. So instead, I’m going to try to play some other music–Grae Moore makes music for ADHD brains. I’m not diagnosed. I don’t think I quite meet the criteria. Nor do I quite meet the criteria for autism. Though the main complaints people have made about me tend to sound like some complaints about autistic traits. There is a family history there. Perhaps my masking is just that good. Or perhaps it’s not, hence the complaints.

Did I mention my mother is coming to visit?

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