reading as an escape
I've been reading a lot recently. I set a goal to read 30 books this year, and I'm already up to 27 with four months to spare. The last time I read at this pace was 2020, while quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic. That year I read more than fifty books, almost one every week.
Reading so many books makes me happy; I love reading and learning new things. But my reading pace is, without a doubt, inversely correlated with my happiness. This isn't to say that reading makes me unhappier—correlation does not imply causation—but rather that I retreat to books more when life isn't going so well. This was true in 2020, when I watched the world fall apart and my final year of university slip away from me. And it holds true now, as I bury myself in books to distract myself from the loneliness of the suburbs, work-related stress, and overwhelming existential anguish.
If I think back to the happiest periods in my life—in love, exploring South America, intensively studying music—I hardly read at all. Maybe only a handful a books a year, if that. Books are great, but even the best of them don't hold a candle to engaging things going on in the real world (namely, a loving partner, a fascinating new culture, and a deep lifelong passion, respectively).
My friend confessed to me the other day that she didn't write as much as much anymore because she's happier now and doesn't feel the need to. That resonates deeply with me, even if I'm not sure the exact same thing happens in my life. But I do often wonder if I can ever have both: a quiet introspective life with lots of reading and writing and a vibrant social ('outside') life at the same time. Thus far in my life, the balance has been hard to find. Am I only able to experience one of these life phases at a time, cursed to constantly miss whichever I lack?
Work has been dreadful. I've been assigned my most difficult challenge yet, a big integration with more than a hundred moving parts. My boss frames this as "an opportunity to take charge", but I don't understand what went through his head to make him think this was a good idea. Why would you give someone who's already struggling a huge task for them to prove themselves? Am I not being set up for failure?
If it wasn't clear already, I have no idea what's going on. I feel like I've been thrown into an upper-level French class at university. The coworker who's been assigned to help me is normally very nice, but even he's starting to get snippy; I can hear it in his voice. I feel for him—it must be hard answering my stupid questions and explaining things multiple times over before I understand them. I have trouble concentrating and find myself constantly forgetting or mixing up things, hard as I try to take notes. I don't know if I'm hitting the limit of my mental capabilities or if I simply can't bring myself to do work I hate, but I feel like something's going to give soon. Either I'm going to quit or they're going to fire me, and I can't bring myself to quit right now with no backup job lined up.
I'm stressed. I feel paralyzed with indecision: I want to slow down and fully understand things before I move on, but I also need to meet the deadlines that have been set for me; I want to look for other jobs, but I'm afraid shifting my focus will make me lose this one. I don't know why I'm so anxious to lose a job that I despise, but I think it's because losing my job will mean no longer being able to kick the can down the road and finally needing to face the scary question of figuring out what I want to do with my life.
One famous Stoic exercise is premeditatio malorum, or visualizing the worst case scenario. What would happen to me if I got fired tomorrow? I guess after crying and resting for a few days I would start applying. But to what? Tech jobs I know I'll be bad at? Masters programs? Things I actually want to do that will pay me significantly less? I would feel a lot less anxiety about being unemployed if I at least knew what things I wanted to go for. I'm stuck in that conundrum that might seem familiar to some of you where the only positions recruiters seem to want to hire me for are the ones similar to my current role, but I'd sooner eat glass than sign up for more coding. And my chances of getting into a full-time role outside of my industry (or even a university program, at this rate) are slim to none with my total lack of experience.
What do I do? All my friends tell me to get another job, and of course I agree (trust me, nobody wants to leave this hell more than me), but I (perhaps foolishly) want to survive in my current job long enough to prove to myself that I can turn things around and leave on my own terms. But the prospect of that redemption happening gets dimmer by the day. And considering I haven't even started looking for other jobs, I'm running out of time on that front too.
thank you for reading; write to me at
yourstiramisu 🐌 proton dot me