by Owen Jenney

by Owen Jenney.


Waking up the first day of going to the excavation site was easy enough, with the four am alarm going off, my roommates and I had already been awake for about thirty minutes. We were nervously awaiting what was to become of us when our group was transported to the Tel for the first time. Everyone seemed to be going through the same thing, all waiting in the coffee room. It was silent, no one knew anyone else and we were still jet lagged and tired. I know I wasn’t thinking of making friends. I was contemplating how I was going to be able to get through four weeks waking up around four every day of the week, with the extremely generous addition of sleeping in till seven on the weekends.

We waited for the bus which pulled up around five twenty, and arrived at the Tel with the sun just coming up. I was still frazzled from sleep deprivation and the early wake up call, and all I could think about was my bed and nothing else. Due to this the basic tour of where we would be working for four weeks flew over my head. The day of fieldwork also just flew by in a haze, it was not extremely laborious; just clean-up of sandbags and general sweeping of the sites. But I was still just thinking about how we would have to wake up at such a terrible hour every day, even not getting much of a break on the weekends. I love my sleep, I would rather nap then see and hang with friends. I would rather be in bed than anywhere else. It’s my comfort zone and getting out of bed makes leaves you at the mercy of the day with little to no control on the proceedings.

My mother and father were always worried about me, due to me having clinical depression. Sleeping the day away everyday was something that scared them, but I loved being alone and unconscious rather than going out and living. I knew it was a problem too, but I couldn’t help myself, I didn’t have to worry about anything while I was asleep. So, when I approached them with the idea of a trip to Israel for a study abroad over the summer, they were all for it. I guess in a way I did it for them. I didn’t want them to worry about me and my sleeping habits and anti-social behavior.

This strenuous sleep schedule was quite literally a wake-up call. I couldn’t just lay in bed and do nothing anymore. Structure, just like in my semesters at Binghamton, was put back into place. I have a role and I’m a cog in a machine in which everyone is needed for it to run smoothly. I had something to wake up for – a responsibility to these people I barely know and I still don’t know even a quarter of their names. Suddenly, I had a purpose. It’s the purpose I’ve been looking for: to wake up every morning, to sweat and to work among strangers that quickly became my close friends. The Tel does that to you, even though its dirty and straining, it’s a common struggle everyone can relate to.

This though doesn’t mean it was easy to break my habit of sleeping. With the added addition of jetlag, I did nap through the first couple of days during free hours in-between lunch and lecture. I really did try my best to be up and about, but the moment I lay down on my bed after the Tel, I just knocked out. Later on, maybe a week in, I was talking to my new friends.  They told me that they got the impression that during the first few days I was going to be the antisocial kid that talked to nobody, the person always in his room and keeping to himself. From my perspective, I believe I did pretty well compared to how I was at home. I stayed awake all through the Tel, went to lunch and dinner, as well as the lecture. But the first days it seems were the most important to socialize and find like-minded people, so me doing the bare minimum and not reaching out or giving the option for someone else to, probably wasn’t a good start.

My comfort zone of sleep and my bed were still too strong a pull on me from months of doing it at home, I would actually have to try to stay awake, even though it’s a day of hard labor from 5:30 to 12:30, followed by lunch, free time (the danger zone), pottery washing, lectures, and then finally dinner. What the hell did I get myself into? Was this a mistake? Did I bite off way more than I could chew? I haven’t felt this amount of fatigue in a long time, and even while writing this I’m having trouble with thoughts of just one quick nap. People who have already been through the program say it gets easier, yet I find myself waking up closer and closer to the deadline of when the bus shows up at five thirty.

The routine of the Tel has become second nature, with work usually going by quickly due to the rewarding tasks that lead to finds and huge sherds, but the fatigue is always there. I’m not the only one either, my roommates and I have had to set 4 alarms in order to properly wake up. The coffee room where everyone hangs out before the bus has lost foot traffic until the final minutes before we leave. Yet, even with my problems about sleep and my troubles with isolating myself in my daily life, I have yet to have a more gratifying experience then my current time in Tel Akko. Being in the field applying the skills you’ve learned while at the program, rather than just listening in a lecture room writing it down for a test and forgetting it first chance you get. The experts and professors you meet really kindle your interest in every subject they talk about, where you can see they are truly passionate about what they are teaching. Plus, working with them in the field means they can answer any questions you might have or show me a better technique on how to use the tools given to me. Overall, my current experience of Tel Akko has been a positive one. The friendships I have made here in such a short time were all possible because I decided to get out of bed, and get started.

Past my bedtime.

I was walking back to my bed.

I wanted to be in bed.

Owen Jenney
About Owen Jenney

1 Comment

  • Marissa Scott
    1:12 PM - 31 July, 2018

    Owen this is an amazing piece that really highlights what it is like to try and balance work and socialization with clinical depression. As a fellow sufferer i also thought i was well in over my head and found so much stress in the idea of 20 hour work days and so many new people to try to “impress” and meet. But thank you for providing such an accurate picture of what it is like living with depression and the need to hide in your bed. But know that you did an amazing job of not letting people see you struggling and I had no idea, until reading this, that you once were craving going to sleep or being away from people. You should be incredibly proud of yourself. Miss you already!

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