Late last month, I pitched a column to a literary blog I work for. It was simple, I would curate 10 Nigerian stories I considered good, weekly. I did the first one and it was great. I had also just decided to turn a column I sometimes wrote on my blog — of literary content I enjoyed that month — into a monthly newsletter.
Halfway into the following week, I realized I hadn’t read anything Nigerian that week and was supposed to curate 10 by Sunday. I panicked. I had been busy working on the layout of my newsletter and deciding what made it onto my list for the month and what didn’t. It was the 2nd of March and I was already a day late with the first newsletter which was supposed to be sent out on the first day of the month.
Somewhere in between designing the layout and writing my first campaign, I freaked out and abandoned it.
Reading, a thing I loved to do, had suddenly become a chore. I had somehow subconsciously changed the objective of the newsletter from sharing literary content I enjoyed to sharing ‘top notch, high quality, important’ literary content.
And that put a strain on me.
I decided I would push my newsletter forward and apologize for being late when I eventually sent it out. As for the column on the blog I worked for, I thought about hurriedly reading posts from my target Nigerian sites but my brain was not willing. So I simply ignored it.
I then decided to take a break from reading.
What started as a little break from reading turned into almost a whole month of being unable to read. I spent the better part of March saving links to stories on my Pocket app, and never reading them. Whenever I opened the app, I would immediately close it. I couldn’t bring my mind to settle down, and be immersed in a story. I never finished writing that campaign, I never sent out the newsletter.
In addition to reading seeming like a chore, I was and am still at a point in my life where I have to make huge decisions that will affect my future. A point where one wrong move can change the direction in which my life is headed.
I developed a crippling anxiety and lack of focus that didn’t allow me settle down and read. I instead spent most of my free time laying in bed and watching comedy shows.
Of course in my line of work, reading is inevitable. I was editing a lot of stuff for a magazine I volunteered for so I had to read those. But I couldn’t read for pleasure.
My friend, C, who I have a habit of sharing links with, and who shares links with me too, soon noticed that I wasn’t reading the stories she had been sharing. I told her I had anxiety and couldn’t read.
Thankfully, she understood and said she had been there before. She urged me to find something that calms me, like music, and keep saving the stories to read when I can. I downloaded loads of new music and that helped me a bit. Someone also suggested meditation and maybe I’ll try it too.
Today, 22nd of March, I started reading again, after 18 days of being unable to read. There was no big moment of healing, the anxiety didn’t miraculously go away. I simply missed reading so much that I had to try.
18 days may not seem like a lot of time to some people. But it is for me. Because reading is my life, reading is something I’m usually able to do everyday. And not being able to do it for 18 days made me feel like I was loosing control of my life.
I have read up to 8 essays today, and I feel great.
Baby steps, baby steps.