Insomnia

I can’t sleep. I toss and turn and try all kinds of tricks, but I can’t silence my brain

The following is part of a multi-part series to run over the next few months. Melissa Baffa, Vice President of Program and Volunteer Services for GSCCC, will be joining the Corps of Exploration this year on the adventure of a lifetime. This blog series will chronicle her dive into the Unknown.

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I can’t sleep. I toss and turn and try all kinds of tricks, but I can’t silence my brain. My body’s tired. My brain is tired. My eyes are heavy, and I am wracked with yawns. But I just…can’t…throttle…down.

It has been this way since I received word that I was selected for the fellowship. I was notified in late January. In February, I got the answer to the question that everyone was asking: where are you going? Panamá and the Galápagos! Bucket list destinations! The possible destinations that gave me goosebumps when I was applying for the fellowship! Discovery site of hydrothermal vents, incubator of ideas on evolution during Darwin’s voyage aboard the Beagle. The stories I could tell about these places! The stories I have told about these places as a teacher…..My mind would not – could not – rest.
In early March, I reported to Rhode Island for training. Leading up to the trip, I was a wreck. So much to think about, so much to learn. I realized I already had books on my bookshelf that Dr. Ballard had written. Reading them, getting excited, I soon concluded that I just could not indulge in them before bed. 
That was part of the insistent spinning that gripped my brain.
Ideas swirling, possibilities rearing their heads late at night when the house was silent. I immersed myself in books, articles, TV shows, and podcasts about the ocean, about exploration, about geology and the Galápagos Islands. Friends starting sending me links, recommending more things to watch and listen to and read. Neurons firing, waking even from fitful slumber with scraps of dreams of ships and salty water.
Ideas for programs, venues and connections in the communities we serve, the ways we could reach out and transfer this excitement to the nearly 11,000 Girl Scouts in our council.
The night before I left for training, I slept for maybe three hours. Even then, I overslept my shuttle pickup and had to scramble to get a later one to pick me up. I was sweating all the way to the airport. But the rest of the journey was uneventful.
Meeting the other fellows and the staff at the Ocean Exploration Trust, I was so impressed with how dynamic and interesting and smart everyone was. Every single person I spoke with was fascinating. I was seriously jet-lagged (with the spring time change heaped on top of the three-hour time difference), and the days were long, so for the first time in several weeks I collapsed easily at night, and drifted off after only a few fitful flops in the crisp hotel sheets.
I think one of the greatest revelations of my adulthood is that even the greats in their fields often go through times in their lives being afraid that they will be discovered to be a fraud. “Will they find out I’m not as good as they think I am?” Maybe it’s that sense that there is always someone better, someone with more natural talent, someone younger and just ascending and full of potential…and maybe these very doubts and fears help to fuel those stars and leaders and makers of history because they feel that nipping at their heels. It propels them onward. These are also the things that keep me up at night.
But then in a moment like this, when I stand in a room of great people and realize I belong, it’s a stunning realization, and suddenly I take a deep breath and square my shoulders and tell myself “You got this.” 
I reflect on my first time on camera. Scared to death. Made it through. It took longer to do my hair than to do the interview. Went really well. You got this.
First time on the radio? Heart in my throat. What if I say the wrong thing? There’s no do-over. What if I’m boring? Turns out it was totally fun, couldn’t wait to do it again. And again. You got this.
First time addressing a large crowd? That sea of faces, the tight feeling in my chest, the breathlessness, losing my place in my speech. Stopped. Remembered to make eye contact, to find a friend, smiling and nodding in the crowd. A gulp of air. A smile. Slow down. You got this.
You see, every time I challenge myself to do something scary, it turns out I make it through just fine. And I get a little better and I get a little stronger, and I look forward to the next crazy thing I sign up for.
So, yeah, I can’t sleep. There are days I long for my bed more fiercely than my next meal. My mind roils with thoughts and plans and doubts and fears. It’s this crazy stew of excitement and exhaustion.
I count down the weeks until my leg of the expedition. I tune in to the Nautilus Live website, listen to the commentary, log in and watch the questions come in on the back end. Celebrate the expedition’s early, amazing, and viral encounter with a sperm whale.
I can’t sleep, but it’s not doubt that’s keeping me awake. It’s excitement. It’s possibility. It’s adventure. It’s the unknown. 
You got this.

Skip to the next blog post by Melissa: The Adventure Begins

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