On Gratification (And An Introduction)

I planned on beginning this blog much differently, with a lengthy essay entitled “Why I Left My Graduate Program.” It would have been published in December, the end of my fall semester, symbolizing what I hope to be a fresh start. It would have been a cathartic writing exercise, releasing me from the prison my mind has become over the past few months.

While I still intend on writing that essay, I need a cathartic writing exercise now.

Have you noticed that everyone online who is giving advice has overcome something? Weight loss experts once weighed more. Six-figure-earning content creators once gained nothing in return for their published work. And life coaches have, too, been stuck in ruts of depression.

I don’t think the word “overcome” applies to me. I’ve survived numerous tough times, like anyone else — but I continue to find myself scaling more mountains. Most of the time, these are mental health mountains. And they’re steep, and daunting, and there are sharp edges, and did I mention I prefer to have my feet planted on the ground at all times?

For the time being, there are two things I want readers of this blog to know about my mind:

  1. I have an anxiety disorder that is manageable most of the time but takes control of my life some of the time.
  2. I am addicted to the dopamine rush I receive when I use any social media platforms.

Let’s talk about Facebook for a moment. Do you remember the first time you used it? I was about 15. I wasn’t allowed to have MySpace or Facebook previously because around that time the culture of social media predators was a top concern of my parents. When I finally got permission, I created a profile and added friends and non-friends from high school.

Then I scrolled. For over an hour.

Currently, almost a decade later, I use YouTube and Instagram the most. The word “use” isn’t quite right, though. Because sitting idly and watching under-ten-minute videos that will, in the long-run, add little value to my life is not an activity. It’s a passivity.

So, because the majority of my downtime is dedicated to screen-staring, I don’t read many physical books anymore. I am a 23-year-old English graduate student who does not freakin’ read unless I have to. And when I do sit down with a novel or non-fiction book, it’s hard — considerably harder than when I was 13 and tearing through fantasy series after fantasy series. Now, while reading, I reach for my phone before I realize I’m doing so, even when I’m not in text-conversation with anyone, even when I have absolutely no reason. My mind is conditioned to demand the most instantly-gratifying option, always.

Culture evolves. I don’t resent social media or technology because, well, that’s too counterculture even for me. But I have recognized over the past few months — particularly in classes where I sat unfocused, unable to complete any in-class reading assignments, then bullshitting my way through a literary analysis — that who I am is massively far away from who I want to be.

I want to be a reader again, and getting there means reviving my old reading habits and retraining my brain. I am certain reading physical books will help ease my anxiety, make me feel sharper and more alert, and expand my knowledge and vocabulary. Duh, right? We’ve all learned the benefits of reading in elementary school. But in elementary school, we weren’t glued to our smartphones and laptops for the purpose of communicating, networking, writing class assignments, finding jobs, reading the digital newspaper — the list goes on.

We weren’t addicts back then.

This blog will describe my reading journey and how I get back into the habit I once treasured and considered “my thing.” I intend on doing so not just by writing about my own experiences but also by writing book reviews on here. This activity will

  • hold me accountable for reading a book every two weeks,
  • aid my understanding and focus on singular tasks (I hope,) and
  • connect me to my readers (given I have readers) (if you’re still reading this, what’s up, thanks for your presence)

Directly connected to recreating my reading habits is my second intention for this blog: managing my writing habits, sticking with projects that matter to me, and recording my progress. The main project currently: I started writing a novel last summer. If you know me well, you know I’ve wanted to write and complete a novel since I was a kid. Getting started last summer, getting five whole shitty-first-draft chapters in a Microsoft Word doc, was really fulfilling and made this silly childhood dream of mine seem actually possible. However, the moment summer ended and I began preparing for graduate school again, I stopped any and all work on furthering my story. I “didn’t have time.”

The truth is no one has time to write a novel. Writers make time. Writers make writing a priority. In the end, it is a less-than-instant gratification that is somehow more gratifying altogether. Hence my need to continue working on my fiction. Hence this blog.

If you are at all interested in these topics:

  • Book reviews.
  • Creative writing process.
  • Mental health.
  • Productivity/adulting/time-management/miscellaneous things that keep me up at night.

…then I hope you’ll stick with me and The Ellipsis. I intend on posting every Friday and starting to write actual book reviews towards the end of the year. I also intend on, you know, figuring out what I want this to be as I go. If you have suggestions, please reach out! I’d love to hear them.

Thanks for reading. Until next week.