In mid-March, it was decided that everyone in my office would work from home for two weeks, until this whole thing was over or under control. We all know how that went. My work from home order was just extended until March 2021, which means I will have been removing into work for at least a full year by the time this is over. As of right now, we’re just past the seven-month mark, which seems crazy. Yesterday was March and now it’s somehow almost November. No one knows what is happening anymore and everything is weird.
When this first started, I was kind of excited. I would save money on gas, and be able to wear comfy clothes all day every day, and watch Neflix while I worked! But, more importantly, I’d have so much more time for reading! Turns out, I was wrong. This whole quarantine/work from home thing is not going as pre-quarantine naïve me had hoped.
But recently I have done some thinking. Because I don’t like the thought of going a whole year with my reading habits as they are currently. It’s just not something I’m okay with. So I decided to pay attention to the reasons behind my non-reading and try and do something about it. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
There are so many more distractions
When I was working in an office, I would frequently be reading at my desk (don’t tell my boss). I’d sneakily read ebooks on my phone in my downtime, and I even downloaded the Kindle app on my computer and got a Kindle Unlimited subscription so I could read more books that way. I flew through public domain classics I could find online, and would often finish an entire book in one day if it was a slow week. (Just to be fair, I would finish all of my work, I’m just quick and no one was complaining, so I would have extra time in the day.)
Now, I’m sitting in a room alone and don’t have to hide the fact that I’m doing things that are not work. Which means no one is stopping me from reading. But it also means no one is stopping me from doing anything else, either. So, instead of hiding my phone to read a book, I spend my workdays watching movies and YouTube and playing games on my Switch. My personal devices and entertainment is always at my fingertips. So, even on my lunch break, I can watch a movie instead of reading a book.
And I haven’t even mentioned all of the other distractions that come with working from home. Mainly, my cat yelling at me because I am not paying attention to him. But also, making sure I keep in touch with people I used to see in person fairly often, keeping up with the insane news, doing my laundry at nine in the morning on a Tuesday because now I can, or hunting for an apartment large enough to store all my books.
Even when I try to read during the work day now, I still have to be in front of my computer in case someone needs something. Not too out of the ordinary, except now I’m on my personal computer. Which means no one from work will ever know if I’m on the Remote Desktop on one screen and watching Buffy on another. Yes, I am a thirty-one-year-old woman who is embracing my inner child and the lack of adult supervision. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but we’re here, so whatever.
I don’t really have dedicated reading time anymore
When I was working in an office, I purposefully set aside time each day to read (in addition to whatever I could sneak in while I was “working”). The hour I spent in a car every day commuting was my audiobook time. Almost every day, I listened to an audiobook to and from work. I usually listen on 2x speed, so that’s a full ten hours a week. Pretty much a full audiobook most weeks, just on my commute. I have made an effort to listen to audiobooks more even though I am literally never in my car, but I’m not great at it. Because
sometimes most of the time, watching a movie or bingeing a TV show just sounds more appealing.
Then I had an hour each day for my lunch break, which was a good amount of reading time I could set aside. I even have a collection of book sleeves to safely bring my book to work to read on my lunch break. And I usually did bring a physical book with me so I wouldn’t get distracted by other things on my phone. Something I have been really bad at this year, partly because I’ve been trying to cut down on my book buying drastically, so I’ve been reading a lot more ebooks. Which basically just means I have about twenty other entertaining apps on the same device I’m using to read. Clearly, this isn’t working out too well.
There is nothing telling me: this is your one-hour of reading time, you better do it! Because every single hour of the day has the potential to be reading time now. So it’s just easier to keep procrastinating.
But the biggest problem of all is….
I have zero motivation to do ANYTHING
It’s not that I just don’t feel like reading. I thought that might be the problem for a while. But, it turns out, I don’t feel like doing anything at all. Even worse? I kind of don’t care. Which feels weird and I don’t like it. I’m probably not alone in this, but this year has just spun everything on it’s head. Eight months ago, I was literally halfway across the world on vacation. Then I got very sick (not sure if it was covid because it was still new and they wouldn’t test me) and then was told to stay home from work. And that’s where we’re at right now.
Time has kind of lost all meaning. I know what day it is on the calendar, but I feel like it holds less significance now. Like, I know it’s October. But tomorrow will be January because yesterday was April and no one cares anymore. It feels like I lost a year of my life in limbo, except it’s still happening and everything is weird. The cousin I went on vacation with this year is now married and having a baby and the last time I saw her she was single and definitely not pregnant. My brain cannot wrap around that fact. It would have been absurd a year ago. Now it’s somehow normal, but normal isn’t normal because nothing will ever be normal again.
I feel like my brain lost itself there for a second, but now you know what I’m dealing with. This is what’s going on inside my head right now, and it’s weird. But I think trying to come to terms with the fact that normal is gone now is kind of messing with all of us collectively. At least it is messing with me. I’ve been on some confusing mental spirals lately.
I have also noticed that, in general, my brain has kind of been turning to mush. It might be the hours spent on TikTok or binge-watching reality TV (I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is). But it also the fact that right now, the world is awful. I am genuinely terrified about the upcoming election. I’m worried about when I’ll go back to work. The holidays are stressing me out already (for many reasons) and I’m trying to find somewhere to live and also think about how I’m supposed to move in the middle of a pandemic (and if I can move all my books while social distancing but also dealing with chronic pain).
Basically, my head is full of very stressful things. Which is very bad for an over thinker with anxiety. So I just stopped thinking about everything so I don’t curl up into a ball and scream. If you watch The Good Place (and you should, it’s all on Netflix now and it’s my favorite thing ever), I’m 100% Chidi. And I have reached peeps in the chili pot level Chidi. I even signed up to audit a Harvard philosophy class on how to be happy and literally remember that I’m still supposed to be doing it like once every ten days. I am in a class that I consistently forget I am taking like nine days out of ten. Pretty sure I haven’t even looked at it in two weeks. My inner over-achieving nerd has left the building and I don’t know who I am anymore.
2020 is kind of the worst
Yes, some good things have happened to me this year. I went to Prague! I got a promotion! I paid off my car! But I also had a massive mental meltdown, have had the worst allergies for months, got my wisdom teeth pulled, was the sickest I have every been, and lost my motivation to do anything. I even bought myself a ring that says “keep f*cking going” as a reminder to do just that, and I can’t even remember to wear it. In my defense, I wear pajamas all day every day now, so I also don’t put on real clothes anymore.
In the scheme of 2020, reading just feels strange. Because everything feels strange. I’m trying to get back into it. But when I’m sitting in front of my computer, it’s probably a 50/50 chance I’m going to pick up a book or pick up my Switch to play Cat Quest (yes, this is my new favorite game and I’m addicted).
I want to give myself a break and not put unnecessary pressure on myself to read all the books. Because that has been a problem in the past. But I think I need to find a balance where I still read something, but also just let it be when I want to watch the entire series of Veep in three days (which may or may not have done last week).
Anyway, this has been my (probably insane) take on why it’s been so hard to read while we’re all stuck at home with nothing to do but read. But I hope you’re all doing well and staying safe and giving yourself a break because you deserve it.