I have a fairly decent idea of when I’m tired beyond productivity. My benchmark for it is what I call “Dead on my feet” tired. When my body is functioning, but my brain has checked out.
Before Korea, my best example of this was when I was doing my Honours – I was directing two versions of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal and writing exams at the same time. My memory is mostly like this:
I’m sitting behind the sound and light desk. One of my actors doesn’t know his lines, and he keeps looking up toward where I’m sitting for a prompt. He can’t see me, as I’m in the dark, and he’s on stage. I’m like the voice of God, he says.
I am wearing black suede boots that are severely beaten up. They’re braced against the wall. I’m looking at the stage from the side on. I’m aware of the chair swiveling as I move to see what’s going on. I’m comfortable in this silly position, even though I shouldn’t be.
I realise that even though I’m sitting here, turning the lights on and off at the right times, my brain has checked out. I’m not tired from not sleeping, I’m tired because all the things I need to do are crowding in my head and I’m so tired now that I can’t effectively put a thought together.
I decide to go home.
There are dozens of varieties of tiredness. For me, the worst has always been the mental checkout tired, because that’s when I know that, no matter how much stuff I need to do, it’s just not getting done.
One of my co-NETs was discussing how she seems to need more sleep in Korea. I’ve found this to be true of myself as well. Even when I manage a full eight hours (which is seldom) I find myself feeling absolutely exhausted by the end of day.
On one somewhat more memorable day of tiredness, I found myself standing outside the door for my first class of the day holding back tears and trying desperately to get into ‘teacher mode’ for class. It may well have been the day I was thinking of when I wrote this post about screaming alarm bells.
Now this may well be related to the fact that I’m not sure I’ve recovered from camp yet, or the lack of vacation days that it resulted in. It might be the fact that my brain is infuriating and keeps me awake and night with questions I can’t answer. It has probably got something to do with the fact that I have suddenly found myself with a slew of extra classes, a new project soon that I know will take up a lot time, and that will not get me paid the way it would have back home, and (as a result) I’m not sure I can handle everything that’s being thrown at me.
(It’s not a matter of what I can handle. It’s that I have to handle it. That’s just how it is.)
I’m aware that I should probably disregard a lot of my thoughts when my brain is like this. I know better than to make decisions when I haven’t had enough sleep. This factor adds a lot of nervousness to the situation. I have a massive decision coming up – one that I still haven’t made yet. I’m nervous that when they do ask me if I want to sign on for another year, it will be on one of these days. And then I’ll say no on principle. Or maybe they’ll ask me on one of the good days, and then I’ll say yes without a second thought.
(You see that? That’s what it’s like to live in my head. I don’t actually have to worry about this decision yet, and yet I am worrying about it. Why do you hate me, brain, why?)
It’s like a minefield in here. Every time I think I’ve caught a break, I lose it again. I think I’ve found some equilibrium, and then the last minute aspect of Korean culture will catch me again.
And this wouldn’t bug me that much, if I wasn’t so goddamn tired.
I guess I know a little of how the kids feel now.