It’s 3:14 a.m. I’m wide awake. My heart is racing. My stomach is turning.
I’ve been awake for an hour. Every time I close my eyes and try to sleep, my mind sets off on a wild tangent. It curses my body for not being able to fall asleep. It relives my time with the elephants, my time in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It runs and runs and runs.
This has been going on for four days. This … jet lag?
I’ve never experienced this before. Every other time I have returned from travel, I’ve been tired for a day or two, but have never felt so utterly exhausted. So starved. So … shitty.
And now, I’m awake and the sun isn’t even up.
I run over in my head the options for such an early start.
I live in Las Vegas, which means if I want to go across the street to the local bar, it is still open. If I want to go to the gym for a quick workout to see if that will finally give my body permission to sleep, I could.
But, want I want to do the most is force myself to eat breakfast, drink a cup of coffee to stay awake until mid-day, and write.
And, because this is Las Vegas, there are very few spots where I can actually do that.
Free wi-fi in Las Vegas is hard to come by. In a 24-hour-town, the amount of wi-fi that operates 24-hours at no cost is few and far between.
Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, they all have it. Only, they aren’t open. For another three hours.
Instead, I open my laptop and prop myself up on pillows in bed.
At first, I attempt to write. But, my brain is mush from lack of sleep. So, instead, I edit photos.
Then, the sun is up and I am out of bed, headed to the coffee shop for a change of scenery.
Later in the day, at my job, I sit on the computer, trying to edit menus, only the words blur. My eyes grow heavy, heavy, heavy.
This is unbearable.
A message pops up on my screen from my co-worker in California:
“Are you overwhelmed?”
Why, yes. Yes, I am. I am sleep-deprived. I can’t focus on letters. I can’t eat. Yes. Overwhelmed. And miserable.
I hastily respond: “Yes.”
Two nights later, I’ve made it through the night, sound asleep (thanks to some Tylenol PM). Regardless, around 8 p.m. on a Friday night, I’m out for Girls Night at a local casino, checking out Kevin Devine play poolside. Snuggled up on a lounge chair, I fall asleep for 20 minutes as I listen to his acoustic guitar.
The next week, I’m all but entirely recovered. I can eat again. I can sleep. Then, it happens.
The owners of the company I work for have requested a private meeting with me. Sitting in the private dining room of one of the restaurants, we speak about my time in Thailand.
“It’s clear you have been struggling,” says one of my bosses.
“Sorry, I didn’t expect to have such jet lag. It’s never happened to me before.”
“Well, you need to understand something. It has come to my attention you’ve been overwhelmed lately … and … it’s because of this trip you took. You’re part-time. We let you go on this vacation. And, it isn’t going to happen again.”
I sit there.
Did I just hear correctly? Did my boss just tell me I can never travel again while I am in their employment?
In a flash, I’m not even thinking about my jet lag anymore. I’m thinking how the hell I am going to get out of Las Vegas.