I check Instagram out of habit (or because I’m a masochist, but probably both) and see that people close to me are nominated for awards, getting new jobs, and making money doing things that I do for free. I “like” the posts to feign enthusiasm, then I look at where I am, sitting in my car in between work shifts, using the 48 minutes I have to try to make something happen that will make me feel like less of a failure. Yet, every time I try to catch up, I feel like I just tumble more towards the end of the pack.
I am not used to being behind. Hell, I’m not even used to coming in second place.
I think about high school, when the only thing I was rejected from was Prom Committee, and that’s because I was too busy doing other extracurriculars that didn’t involve choosing what color balloons would go best with a “Night on the Red Carpet” theme. I think about college, when I could stay up until midnight working, and then wake up at 5am to continue where I left off without a hitch—all because I once heard James Franco say that he thought sleep was wasted time. I think about everything I’d been able to accomplish before, and get frustrated that my productivity seems to be slacking in comparison to my peers, and I hyperventilate, thinking that I’m not good enough, smart enough, strong enough.
I wake up. I’ve fallen asleep again, goddamn it. Time to go into work.
These feelings started a while ago. They continued onto the next day, and week, and month, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t feel like I could use a nap. I think about taking it easier, but when I think I might follow through, I see another post on Instagram telling me I have a lot to do to catch up.
Soon, I find that I’ve worked 24 straight days in a row. That is 24 days of work that pays, work that pays less, and work that doesn’t pay at all. On this 24th day, I feel tired, but not much more than usual. I have been out since 5am, fit in a lunch date with a friend, and make it back to my apartment to rest for a few minutes before it’s time to leave again. I toy around with the idea of taking an eight-minute nap, but decide against it because I know I won’t want to wake up.
I leave for work when it’s time, and still feel tired, but this is normal. As I continue on the road, it feels less normal. It is painful to stay awake, but I am sure I can will myself through it. I think, “if I can just make it halfway, I’ll be good to go.” I think, “I am physically and mentally weak if I pull over.” I think, “Maybe I shouldn’t be listening to NPR right now.”
I can no longer tell if the fact that I cannot hold my eyes open is normal or not. On the one hand, it makes sense that I’m tired, seeing as I’ve had a long day. On the other, it doesn’t make any fucking sense because I am an adult—not a child who needs to be put down for a nap every day, yet here I am: a 25 year old who cannot deal with the fact that she is falling behind in life, lacks an apartment with the appropriate amount of space to shelter a cat, and is about to lose her health insurance.
I wake up and I’ve hit the cement divider on Crenshaw Boulevard. I put it in park, turn on my hazards, and sit. My left ear is ringing. I smell smoke from the side airbags that deployed. My glasses are surprisingly still on my face, despite falling off like clockwork whenever I look down, or jog, or watch a movie. Of course those fuckers stayed on this time.
I call my boss to tell her I can’t make it to work. She gets my shifts covered, and I don’t feel relieved as much as I wish I hadn’t lost out on at least $50.
I call my boyfriend and tell him I fell asleep. I start to cry because I feel like garbage. Garbage that couldn’t drive three more fucking minutes to get to her workplace without hitting a goddamn cement slab. He tells me he’s on his way to come get me.
I call my mom and tell her what happened. She asks if I’m okay, and I say, yes, like it doesn’t matter. I am stupid and tired and feel even more stupid and tired as I think about what just happened. She keeps telling me she’s glad I’m okay, and I want to tell her I don’t care that I am. But I don’t because that’s probably not what she wants to hear after her daughter just collided with a cement block at who-knows-what speed.
A car stops behind me—it’s an old Lincoln, and I’m not going to guess what year because that’s not my thing. I don’t even know it’s a Lincoln, really, until the guy who’s driving it tells me. His name is Steve, and he’s from Louisiana, visiting his mother in the area. He’s pretty old, so I start to wonder how old his mother is. He asks what happened. I get out of the car to tell him, seeing the damage for the first time. It’s not nearly as bad as it feels, but I still break down and cry more out of frustration that after all of this, THAT was the damage.
He puts out flares to direct traffic away from me as I open my trunk and hood because apparently, that’s what you’re supposed to do when you fall asleep and veer onto the shoulder, into a five-foot-tall wall. I then sit inside the car, and he tells me about the flares—he had just gotten them today from a friend who found them in his garage. They are from 1971, which he finds hilarious. I don’t know if that’s old in flare years, but I laugh along. I hope he doesn’t tell me “everything happens for a reason.”
He recites the AAA number off the top of his head because he doesn’t have a smart phone. We get a tow truck out, and he waits with me, entertaining me with car facts and instructions on how to put flares out. I can tell he’s trying to keep me distracted, which would usually bother me, but I’m too tired to be difficult at this point.
I look at the clock and think, “maybe if this is done fast enough, I can make that second shift and not be out an extra $25.” Then I think this is maybe what got me here in the first place, so maybe I should just call it a day.
Everyone texts me, saying they’re glad I’m okay, but all I kind of just want to die, tbh. I tell them I’m fine, though, out of courtesy. Little do I know that I’m about to be given a rental car with no power locking doors or electric windows.