Thursday, March 24, 2016

Reading Slumps and Busy Schedules

When I graduated college, the economy was beginning to crash. It wasn't a good time for any graduate looking for a job. There were hiring freezes and people were hopeless--including me. I had no sense of direction and I didn't know what to do. Up until my last semester in college I hadn't really thought of what came after. I had grown up being told, "if you get a bachelor's, you'll be set" and I foolishly expected as much. What I didn't expect was a lack of jobs or did I consider my lack of job experience.

Adding to that, my parents moved out of New York during my senior year of college. In New York I had an established relationship with the libraries in the area, people knew me, and that could have provided the little hook I needed to land a job post-school. But now that we were in Pennsylvania, I knew no one. Worse, we were living in the coal mining region where the biggest employer was Walmart. I hadn't the faintest idea what I would do.


Here's the deal with getting your undergraduate degree: half of your time will be spent taking classes that are general requirements and have nothing to do with your major. I hated it. I hadn't gone to college to waste my time learning about fractions or learning a foreign language at a speed I could not handle. And yet, that was part of the deal. So I stuck it out, did my general requirements, then spent the later years of my college career focusing on English (which was my concentration). I loved it, I loved the focus on books and essay writing. Finally, I had gotten to a place where I was studying what I had set out to study.

When I was faced with unemployment and a questionable future, I considered graduate school. I would be able to avoid my loans for awhile, study English more intensely, and hopefully come out of it both more desirable to employers but also with the economy back on track. I researched and researched and realized that graduate school wasn't quite in the cards for me just yet. Financially, mentally, it wasn't a right fit.

Skip forward six years and I was feeling quite good about myself. Despite working full time, I had completed a copyediting certification course without shedding too many tears. The dream of going to graduate school and focusing on English was still there and finally, after a lot of deep thoughts and soul searching, I felt I was in the right place in my life to do it. Mentally, financially, I was ready.

So I applied and I got in. I was thrilled. I had gone with my heart and applied to study both English and Creative Writing -- my two loves. In the summer of 2015, I began class and that's when thing became a little sticky.


Work had become a monster. While I was working 40 hours a week--a very normal amount of work--I was extremely busy at work. Every day I was swamped in documents to review and edit. The number kept increasing and my energy was simultaneously decreasing. All the while, I was taking one class at a time. After work, I'd drive home and begin my schoolwork. When I was done with classwork, I often didn't have a lot of free time and when I did, I barely had enough brain cells to rub together to concentrate on a book.

Throw in family emergencies and the likes, and I was falling apart. Mentally, physically, I was exhausted. I've always been a perfectionist and after having a less than stellar GPA during my undergraduate years (I might have enjoyed the college lifestyle a little too much), I was determined to prove myself with graduate school. I would get A's if it killed me. But you can only do so much before it becomes a complete drain and you're left feeling like a zombie.

Through all of this, the number of books I read began to steadily drop. Quickly, I was reading less and less. Every few weeks, I would finally finish a book and realize my blog was sitting dormant. The reviews I had were beginning to publish and no new posts were being developed. I knew I'd run out of material but I couldn't bring myself to sit down and write reviews. I was exhausted. I was desperate for sleep. I needed a break.

Skip to March. I completed my third graduate school class with flying colors and I took a mental health break. For one term -- a total of 12 weeks -- I was free of school work. The first week, I slept. The second week, I still slept, but when I managed to wake up I began to read. By the third week, I was starting to read more regularly and feel a little more like myself.


I've discovered that reading is often a form of therapy for me. When I read, I mentally check out. Suddenly I'm not stressed about work anymore, I'm not worrying about finances, commuting, or school. If I can't read, it will often reflect my mental state. Not reading = anxious and too busy. I can only be "too busy" for so long before I begin to mentally and physically shut down.

Now that I've gotten the majority of my very sleepy days out of the way, I've begun to rediscover my love for books and really get back in tune with everything. Reading is my way of knitting myself back together. I didn't realize how exhausted I was by the overload of work, family medical issues, and school until I began reading each evening. I began having a clearer thought process and dreams -- I started to write again.

It's pretty bad when you're so overwhelmed that you can't write creatively while you're going to school for Creative Writing. But I'm coming to have a better appreciation for a lazy evening and the power of breaks.

My next graduate school class doesn't begin until mid-May, but I'm clearing out the cobwebs in my head as we move in that direction of the beginning class date. I'm also reasoning with myself that not reading during school is okay and not to stress so badly if I make barely any progress in books. I've also come to realize that I can only take three classes back to back before requiring a break. It's just needed and it's okay to step back for a bit.

So this blog may be a little less frequent in terms of publications and that's ok. Better to have material I've enjoyed writing than to force out dry content.

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