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Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance

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Posted in Personal, Stories

1984

What’s the longest you’ve been without sleep?


It is 1984. And George Orwell was right: someone was watching me! But it was not my big brother. If it had been him, he could have helped! No, it was the university who was staring at me, breathing in my neck, inserting truck loads of adrenaline into my veins.

It was the week of finishing my thesis. It was a week of writing, of failing typewriters, of coffee and music, piles of papers, computer sheets that made no sense, all spread out through my room. Of house buddies feeding me, encouraging me to keep going, assuring me that I WOULD make it.

There was no time for sleep. My whole world was turning around this project. I took short naps, with my head on the desk, kept the neighbors awake with my never ending writing, the drumming of my typewriter echoing through the house. No computer with word processing options, but a machine that was training my fingers. And I was in turn torturing the poor thing. Hours of just staring at a sheet of paper that had to be filled with sensible, even brilliant meanings. And they were all eluding me as the hours and days slipped through my hands.

Here is the very same typewriter: it survived the slaughter in splendid condition!

At the end of that week – so on Friday – five copies of the thesis had to be handed in at the university, or I would have to wait for months to get another try. On Thursday noon I remember sitting in the bus on my way to the Safaripark Beekse Bergen, where I had done my research and where the copies would be printed and bound. The final concept of the thesis was in my bag, which I kept protectively on my lap. Everything was blurred, in a haze, and an insistent peep was tormenting what was left of my brains.

I have no idea how I made it to the Safaripark. The maximum hours of sleep was about six hours in four days. A zombie looked healthier than I did. Worried hands took the concept from my hands and I could finally relax. A couple of hours later I was on my way home again with five printed copies. Which led me to my diploma.

But first it led me to my bed. I have never been as tired in my life as back in 1984.