drab Feb

First snow in Beijing to usher in the Year of the Ram/Sheep/Goat
First snow in Beijing to usher in the Year of the Ram/Sheep/Goat

In a blink of an eye, the end of the Year of the Horse galloped past me, and the fluff of all things ram/sheep/goat has descended.  It’s probably fitting that I’ve had moments when I found it difficult to breathe, such was the intensity of the whirlwind I found myself in.

Parts of the whirlwind were thrust upon me while the others were self-inflicted.

At the beginning of the month, I was thrown into a gruelling two-week project at work, where I was asked to copyedit the English translation of a 500-page service proposal.  Even though I eventually managed to negotiate my workload down to about half those pages, the technical nature of the document and often incomprehensible English translation meant staying in the office til the wee hours almost everyday for two weeks. After not doing crazy overtime hours for a couple of years, I found it tough working 18-hour days and surviving on 5-6 hours of sleep. And I had it easy compared to my graphics colleagues who were designing the layout for this mega document, some of whom spent nights in their office, catnapping in turns, because they’d get the text around 3 am and had to produce the layout in time for the daily 8:30 am meetings.

Courtesy of CCTV6
Courtesy of CCTV6

If I knew I’d be working on this project, I probably wouldn’t have signed up to help CCTV6 translate subtitles for the 2015 Academy Awards in the middle of the week-long Spring Festival break.  But it seemed like such a good idea when I first signed up for it. I’d get to watch the Oscars as it happened, indulge in my movie buff tendencies for a couple of hours and make some pocket money on the side.

What I didn’t anticipate was the toll two weeks of overtime would take on me physically and mentally. The days when I felt 100% after sleeping in for a day after I finished an intense project were well and truly gone. I collapsed in bed at 10 pm the first night after the proposal was submitted, fairly sure I was going to make up for lost sleeping time.  I was wide awake at 5 am, after a night of fitful dreaming about audit terms in English and Chinese, and could not fall back into restful sleep.  It took me another two days before I stopped dreaming about the document in my sleep, and another two days before I felt 100% physically and mentally, just in time for the Oscars gig.

As TV work goes, nothing ever goes as planned. Instead of the couple of hours I originally anticipated, I ended up at CCTV6 for the most part of the day, leaving only at 4 pm. By then, I’d received a mayday call from my colleague about a video project we’ve been working on, and I headed back to the office to translate the subtitles for a couple of hours. I hit the sack close to midnight, having worked 12 out of the 18 of my waking hours.

I wasn’t exactly surprised when my body caved in after catching a chill a couple of days before the month drew to a close.  Even then I only took one day sickie, as I was put on another urgent project.  That week passed in a blur of imbibing Chinese medicine, visits to a Chinese chiropractor and therapist, working a lot and sleeping badly.

Even though I felt physically well by the start of March, it took the rest of the month for my mental and emotional state to catch up (helped largely by an impromptu week-long holiday in Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe). I spent the most part of March assessing how I got myself into such a fix in February and making some hard decisions about how I was going to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.

The hardest decision was accepting that I could no longer work the kind of hours I used to do in my twenties without suffering unfortunate physical consequences, and I’d have to turn down work and appointments in the future to make sure I get enough rest. This went against every grain of my workaholic nature, but it was unfortunately necessary if I didn’t want history to repeat itself in the very near future.

I haven’t quite decided if maintaining this blog constitutes ‘work’, especially since I haven’t been posting as regularly as I hoped.  Perhaps I’ll let my physical health dictate if I should continue or stop blogging.

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