I had been feeling kinda sick all week, so I shifted around my work schedule a bit and got 6 hours of sleep last night. Wow! I feel so energized this morning, I haven’t gotten 6 hours of sleep on a weeknight in literally months. My average sleep this summer has averaged at about 4.5 hours on a weeknight and 6-7 on weekends. Eight hours does not happen. Ever.
When debating the pros and cons of pursing my dreams, I’ve had many discussions with friends/colleagues/parents about my financial future, my romantic future, my family… etc. But no one ever really brought up sleep. Perhaps instead of all these big picture perspectives someone should have just asked, “Are you willing to live for years without sleep?” Hmm… if I had thought of it like that I may have opted for that desk job after all.
I count myself as having four jobs, though only three are paid. The problem with starting a theatre company is the same as with any small business – the first few years are about putting money in without expectation of getting any back. In the case of a non-profit start-up it’s even worse because by nature you don’t actually expect to ever make a profit. But that’s my dream, so I’m putting the time in without any expectation of money, but of course I need to pay my bills. Which brings me to my other three jobs.
In order to live in such an expensive city, pay my student loans, credit card debit, and the ever-increasing amount of other bills while being a freelancer, I must work at least two, and right now three, jobs at a time. Currently I work as a personal trainer, theatre educator, and D.C. tour guide. The blessing and problem with all three jobs is that I am constantly in motion, pouring energy into each thing that I do, and when I start my first job at 6am and finish my last job at 10pm 6 days a week, plus fitting in friends and the Fringe Festival, I find myself living in a constant manic state. For a month or so I thought I was handling things well, then they started to go downhill. I have heard stories of people being so tired that they fall asleep at the wheel or at work. That doesn’t happen to me. I’ve had insomnia for years so I’m accustomed to lack of sleep, and I always somehow managed to find a way to function, leading my sleep-deprived brain to believe what I’m doing is okay. But it’s not. The changes I’ve experienced since following along this path have been subtle and gradually increasing.
It started with not being able to find my keys. I would think I put them one place and realize they were somewhere totally different. I’ve had to buy carabiners and clip them to my bags. The memory problems have gotten worse; I used to be an ace with memorizing lines and lately I can’t remember them. The last straw was last week when I just outright forgot to pay my rent. Luckily I always pay early to appease my crazy landlady, so I was able to realize it before the end of the first.
My immune system is in the crapper of course. I’m pretty much sick every other week, though sometimes I can’t tell if I’m actually sick or if I’m just nauseous because I haven’t slept. The last few weeks since Fringe began I’ve been getting outright dizzy spells whenever my heart rate spikes, which has caused me to pull back on my workouts. That’s a problem because my workouts are my primary way to relieve my stress, so the problem perpetuates itself.
The thing that is most noticeable to others, and most bothersome to myself, is the change in my personality. I’m grumpy, emotional, and overreact to silly things. I’ve basically reverted to my teenage self. I’ve found myself more than once snapping at friends or losing my temper at rehearsals. And while I can living with being spacey, I’m unable to accept myself as a bitch. I like being a nice person, and being a good friend is of the utmost importance to me.
I have about a month left of teaching contracts and thick tour guiding schedules, and then I’m going to try to find a way to pull back. I don’t know how I’ll pay my bills. If someone has a suggestion I’d love to hear it, but I don’t see that I have much choice. I think I’m hitting my shutdown point and it’s starting to work against me rather than for me. Ugh.
This whole thing probably sounded very negative, but the sad truth is I’m actually really happy. I love my jobs, I love my theatre work, and things are going well with all of it. For the first time I see my efforts starting to pay off. What a weird place to be. I finally understand why you hear all those stories of celebrities getting checked into rehab for exhaustion. Everyone always thinks it’s a disguise for drugs, but perhaps it really isn’t. Maybe they are just really freaking tired. I can relate.