The Reader’s Existential Crisis

Have you ever anticipated reading a book, built up the potential experience in your mind to unsurpassable heights, so that the only remaining destination is the pit of depthless disappointment?

I love reading, I do. But I am also a classic overthinker. This is how my reading process goes:

“I can’t wait to read this book! This book is going to be different. This book is going to make me feel something entirely new. I will come away with feelings that I’ve never dreamt of having or knowing. I will take away knowledge that will make me wiser. I will come away with a treasure of bottomless joy. I will…”

“Oh my God, the long-awaited adventure has finally come! Ah, would you look at those first few pages?! I’m in a new world with new possibilities! This is so exciting, this is so refreshing…

And this is not what I came for.

I’m bored now.

Hey, Soph, have you thought of these other books?”

brain cycle

This cycle is so recycled, my soul may now just be the world’s most green-friendly system it has ever witnessed.

Why does this happen? Why do I have an existential crisis every time I read? Why am I so bogged down by what reading truly means?

It is only this past year that I’ve developed an overwhelming need to overanalyse what should be a leisure pleasure. Because this is what reading is supposed to be like, isn’t it? Reading is supposed to bring enjoyment, it’s supposed to allow you to immerse yourself in a different world, inhabit another’s skin, live and breathe something entirely new or something or someone so familiar that reminds you that you’re not alone.

I have been thinking and thinking and thinking this over. I’ve over-thunk this to exhaustion and so much so that I feel it in my tired joints as it opens another new book, as my eyes gloss over words that it barely registers, as my mind drifts to unrelated thoughts. God, I’m tired.

my head

This isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed some of the books that I’ve read this year. I’ve loved Oh, The Places You’ll Go, The Diary of a Young Girl, Emma, The Hate U Give and the Wimpy Kid series. In fact, reading Anne Frank’s diary was a revelation to me. I never realised that I could relate to a non-fictional person so much, that someone like me has actually existed, that I’m not as alien as I thought I was. I suffer from Anne Frank syndrome: happy on the outside, sad on the inside. Sure, not a lot happens in the book, but if like me you relate to Anne, then you will understand the joy that I felt as Anne wrote out my thoughts and feelings. And Oh, The Places You’ll Go? That book is my happy place. It’s my go-to pick-me-up and yet, I don’t own a copy. *Makes a mental note to request book for my birthday.*

But some of the others have been underwhelming. If you remember, I made a list of books that I want to read this year a few months back. I planned the crap out of it. I even planned the next reading adventure after I finished that. And now I realise that it has been a major detriment to my enjoyment of reading. I’ve created a routine and a reading schedule, and I feel so confined. I feel so limited.

I am a free-spirit. And yet I’ve trapped myself in a routine that is stifling me. The first thing I ever knew about life was that routine makes me see things in sepia tone, of a world that is no longer alive and pulsing, of day’s gone by that bring a noxious nostalgia of monotony and anything devoid of variety, vibrance and colour.

giphy.gif

Variety and authenticity… my defining traits. I want to read according to my mood. I don’t want to create a schedule and tell myself: “This is what you planned, now get on to it! And don’t forget to take notes for your book review!” Reading isn’t work, it shouldn’t be. Reading should be fun. And this is me working and writing out my feelings and desires. I am setting myself free from routine and diving into a sea of endless whims.

This past year, I’ve forced myself to finish books that I don’t really want to read hoping and deluding myself into believing that it will get better. Now I’m going to give you a 50-100 pages chance before it’s time to kick you out of my life and into someone else’s who will enjoy you better.

Heck, I’ve been telling myself that perhaps I need to read a self-help/religious book next, or maybe some poetry in an effort to put some heart back into my heart. But no. I will not. I will pick up whatever book strikes my fancy, in the moment, and promptly throw it away when I no longer find it interesting (ethically, of course; I’m looking at you my local library and charity shop).

Speaking of which, I’ve loved writing poetry more these days, just sitting down and pouring my voice into verses. In the grip of a fever a month ago, I cried so much I purged out all the repressed feelings I had been harbouring, everything I had let fester and, somehow, I managed to compose a blur of poetry. But I felt so alive, I felt what I’ve dreamt of feeling for a long, long time: passion, excitement and fulfilment.

writing

In the midst of reading, I’ve forgotten a far greater pleasure: writing. Because my voice is my voice, purely my own. No other voice will be quite my own. Almost all of them will never make it to my blog, they are for my eyes only. I do it for me and nobody else.

So, I say goodbye to routine and schedules, you’ve trapped me long enough, but I’ve crawled out of the sewer now and I emerge free, victorious and with no idea what’s going to happen next.

Breathe.

c74926cc-31ab-4c1b-831b-4e41b2214048


Have you ever experienced these thoughts when reading? What tips do you have for overthinking readers? Let me know in the comments!

If you like this post, feel free to share!

Sophski out.

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44 Comments

  1. I never tried scheduling because they don’t really work for me. So I usually only go according to my mood. Hence, there are few weeks where I’m reading books continuously back to back with hardly any gap between two reads, and then for some months I just don’t read anything.

    Seriously, it’s okay to not be in reading mood. Don’t stress yourself too much about it. Chill out. Meanwhile if reading is seeming hard, there are still amazing TV series to start watching, or anime, or as you stated – writing. Options are endless. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s an awesome way to approach it, to just go with your mood and not force anything! I bet it feels more natural for you because there’s less pressure, right? I’m surprised by not reading for a month, you know what?! I have to try it one day, I really can’t imagine how it must have been like for you to not read for an entire month. Sounds quite liberating I have to admit.

      Thank you for your support, that’s so lovely of you. 💕 Yes, you’re right, I need to chill out! There are other options to reading. Thank you once again. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not month, *months. (Guilty as charged). Well to be honest, it doesn’t feel so odd once you stop caring whether or not you finish that book within a fixed time. And this may sound real preachy, but I totally believe that ‘right books will find you in the right time’ theory. So I just let stories find their way to me. (And it has worked out so far). One disadvantage – I’ve read less books compared to other readers.
        You’re most welcome sis. 🎈

        Don’t think of Elephants! What did you think about just now?

        I feel if we decide not to do something, that’s when we’re most wanting to do it. Is it not? I wonder. Don’t worry, reading will find its way back to you. It always does. 💫

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow, months! I can imagine how much more free time you have to do other things! I completely agree with that, our intuition can guide us to the right book or it’ll come to us (well that and reading book reviews that let us know 😂). I don’t believe that it really matters if we’ve read less books than others, after all, it is not a competition. Like you said, there are other passions! And I also believe that reading has nothing to do with intelligence, sure some books do help, but there are other equally important ways to be smart and enlightened… it’s called living, socialising (yep!) and travelling. Real life can teach us more than books sometimes.

          I will admit that I thought of books and Eleanor Oliphant! 😂 I KNOW that was a trick question… somehow just somehow.

          Oo! Yes. We want what we don’t have. Time apart from books will reignite our love for reading. It will come, of course. Star 🌟

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Most of the time, I’m doing nothing that is if I don’t have exams coming up. Thank you so much for saying that. Because I thought there’s this thing among readers where you’re frowned upon if you prefer reading only less books. (which interest you) (Even if that’s an actual thing, I can’t really change this thing about me). Yep, yep. Real life – the best teacher.

            Woww! How did you manage to do that!? Even while I typed that all I could think about were elephants (animated versions in blue, pink, yellow. 😂)

            Yes, it will come. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Doing nothing is something. Doing nothing can be so unbelievably relaxing! I feel like we should all just take time out to just do nothing. I have noticed that it used to be like that, some occasional snobbery, but we’re seeing people move towards less pressure because at the end of the day, it’s not about how many books you read, the question is are you enjoying them? Are you reading what you enjoy? You gotta do what you wanna do and if that doesn’t include reading a lot of books like it’s some new sales record you’re trying to achieve, then you know what? That’s freaking good.

              It’s because my mind was primed to thinking about books! 😂 A rainbow elephant though? Awesome. Speaking of which, I think there’s a book about that? See, oh dear.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. ‘There is not enough time to do the nothing I want to do!’ Maybe everyone is beginning to realize that this is not a race. And what this is, is totally our own choice to make. Life is pressuring in its own way, at least we can try to free ourselves you know?

                Oh my! 😍 But, that is so cool. To be so full of stories sounds incredible. ✨

                Liked by 1 person

                1. That quote is perfect. And yes, you’ve summed it up perfectly, and I have to say, I feel like open discussions of mental health has aided that discovery, that we shouldn’t be putting so much pressure on ourselves and generally people are more important about the different ways we do that. Plus, we have such an open and lovely community who support us and remind us of this! 🙂

                  Liked by 1 person

  2. Yikes…totally relatable crisis. Especially if it’s fantasy books. Stale fantasies suck!
    I’m not going to be that “have you tried these other books?” person, but perhaps reading works in translation would give you a taste of a different flavour. As an English major, I’ve found that some of the most amazing reads I encountered came from the electives I took on Russian and Japanese lit. Or even just works from a different era?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A stale fantasy will you have skimming hard and nobody wants to do that with books!

      Books that I have read that have been works in translation have always worked well for me, I’m not sure why, but there seems to be such a magical feel to them? Including your Mulan translation which blew me away.

      Japanese and Russian lit sound amazing! I haven’t read any Japanese lit, so I’m hoping you might recommend some to me, and I’m hoping to read The Brothers Karamazov one day and other works of Dostoyévskiy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aww, thanks again. I might translate some more shorter stuff in the future once the semester’s over.

        Dostoyevsky is so awesome. I haven’t read the Brothers Karamazov yet, but Crime and Punishment blew my mind. I also really like Chekhov’s short stories.

        The Japanese lit class I’m taking is focused on 19th-20th cent stuff, so not all that contemporary. If you like Dostoyevsky, you might like Edogawa Ranpo (pen name based on “Edgar Allan Poe”). As for the more recent, there’s always Haruki Murakami! His works are guaranteed palate cleansers if you enjoy crazy surrealism.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Looking forward to reading it!

          I’ve heard great things about Crime and Punishment, it seems very deep with rich philosophy and a novel that I can learn many things from. I want to read War and Peace as well, I hear Tolstoy was an INFJ and Natasha from the novel (an ENFP) is based on his wife, so I’m excited for that! I’ve heard of Chekhov, but I did have to search him on Goodreads because I wasn’t familiar with any of his works. I’ll take your word for it!

          That sounds amazing, I hope we get a post on more Japanese lit one day. 😋 I’ve added a Ranpo novel now! I have a copy of Norwegian Wood and read a couple of pages of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but forgot the name of the book which was frustrating because the few pages I read were mesmerising and breathtaking. The Metamorphosis looks really good too! I can imagine reading Murakami is an entirely different and refreshing reading experience. Cannot express how excited I am!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I haven’t read War and Peace yet, but I do want to. I heard Tolstoy’s wife copied that monstrously sized work 6 times or something. True dedication.

            I hope you have fun reading! Would love to read your reviews on some of these.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Well, damn. That’s, wow, she had to have a lot of love for him to do that. If you do ever get round to reading War and Peace, please let me know your thoughts on it!

              And thank you, definitely will be reviewing them considering how fascinating Russian and Japanese lit seem to be.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. HA ha ha ha ha! I think we’ve discussed this before, Soph. I think, too, that I have as much in common with you as you do with Anne Frank. I decided long ago that life’s too short for bad or even mediocre books or books that I have to work to understand. My page limit is 10-50 pages. If I’m not feeling it, it’s a DNF. Also, I don’t read according to any kind of schedule or plan, just flit from book to book and genre to genre as the whim strikes me. And I occasionally resort to poetry when I’m so inspired.

    Great post, Soph! Take care, be kind, and live well!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep, I got the 50-100 pages idea from you (I got the numbers bungled up though)! That was a new way of thinking for me, and it really opened up the idea of just DNF’ing books if they don’t make me happy (yes, happy). Although, that 10-50 pages limit sounds intriguing… I do think sometimes if the writing style is something you just cannot get on board with, you’ll just know in around 10 pages.

      Reading according to whims is the way to go it seems! I do hope to see more of your “occasional poetry” especially the humorous ones of yore that you used to compose!

      Dear Denny, is this your fancy way of saying that you are also happy on the outside and sad on the inside (re Anne Frank)? I wonder if you don’t mind me asking then how you’re doing?

      Thank you, will do and right back atcha! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m doing fine, Soph, thank you. I outgrew being happy on the outside but sad on the in a long time ago. When I’m sad now, I don’t try to put on a brave face. I am highly contended and satisfied with my life; it is filled with so many good things that I truly don’t deserve.

        The day I wrote my initial response was the day after a major midterm election here, an election about which I had been very anxious and that, as I feared, didn’t turn out nearly as well as I would’ve liked it to. Not only am I unused to experiencing severe anxiety, I was feeling very sad about the election results. But I’m already almost recovered and back to my baseline self.

        I do not mind you asking me how I’m doing and never will. And how about you? Are you doing well, and is everything in your corner of the world going as well as you’d like it to?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s revolutionary to me, not pretending to be happy for appearance’s sake. I think perhaps that contentment in life just lets you know that no matter what happens, you have support from all fronts. And you have a very wonderful family and I’m sure they are awesome help! But I disagree that you do not deserve them – you are an excellent human being, father, husband, employee and citizen and you deserve all the amazing things in your life. You truly are a world-class person. 🙂

          It didn’t go as well as it should have, I definitely expected a lot more blue. Nonetheless, Dems did receive more votes and we are seeing improvement. The only way is up from here. 🙂 But I am disappointed to see that rural areas favour Republicans, and I think this is the key issue. Rural areas have very different value systems and lifestyles to those in bigger cities where the melting pot is alive and bubbling. So, the biggest question is how can politicians appeal to rural areas? I don’t see the system of seats (and its powers) being rectified any time soon if at all. I’m sad to hear that this is the first time you’ve experienced severe anxiety, God knows how terrifying and stressful that can be, but I am happy to hear that you’ve recovered. Please don’t lose hope, there is always hope and I truly believe everything will get better eventually. There will always be more good than bad. 🙂

          I am doing okay, things could be better, but I’m very grateful that I have an amazing support network and it seems that my life is so full with love that I just don’t know what to do with it other than be thankful. I tell myself to cry it out when things go bad and then tell myself that I will feel better… and then I do. Because I have before, so why not now? 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Exactly! I hope your circumstances improve to match your attitude. The Girl will turn 13 next week, and she is in the throes of puberty and middle school angst and in the clutches of all the attendant anxiety. It breaks my heart to see her suffering, and I haven’t yet figured out how to help her regain her prior self-confidence. I wish I knew how to help her learn to boost herself back up the way you’re able to, but I guess that’s just something that comes with age & experience. All I can do is guide her with wisdom, patience, and compassion. But it’s so hard to see her struggle!

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Thank you for your wishes, I appreciate it. 🙂 I’m sure you’re doing all that you can to help her, just continue being supportive, and being a willing ear to any problems she is facing. We both know how it is like at that age when we are growing up, I know if we hear words of praise and support from our parents we really appreciated it. I will say to be careful about how you phrase things, not that you don’t do that, just to remind the Girl that you support her no matter what happens because if we place too much expectations and overload young people with praise, I think it only serves to increase the pressure because then she’ll be worried about letting you down. Just ask questions, listen and show support and remind her that you love her just as she is and whatever happens. (I asked my sister who is 15 about how she would wish us, my family, to approach her if she’s having problems and this is what she has said. 🙂) Young people learn best when parents lead by example, I believe, and we can only guide them through our own actions sometimes.

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  4. Omg yes! You hype yourself up for a book and then you’re hit with such disappointment. It sucks.
    I need routine in my life though. I like having a schedule. Although, I am more lenient with my reading schedule. I read when I can. There are days when I don’t read and I’m okay with that. The only thing that’s bothering me right now is my reading challenge. Thankfully I’m almost done with it. But like you, I like to be free to choose what I want to read. So sticking to my TBR for the challenge has been a bit of a struggle :/
    Any poetry posts scheduled?? Would love to read what you’ve written! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it really boils down to personality sometimes, some people are amazing with routine and others like me need variety. But it’s super cool that you can do it, although I had no idea that you don’t read on some days, I really was under the impression that you read every day. I want to try that… just not read for one day! It sounds liberating.

      I wanna say screw that reading challenge, but it’s up to you if you feel like you’re up for completing it! But I’m sure you’ll most likely finish it, I mean you’ve read all the Nancy Drew books! I set mine low so I don’t feel the need to pressure myself. 😰

      I might post the less deep stuff one day, but the ones wringing with pain (lol) I’m keeping for myself cos some of them are very depressing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I tend to listen to an audiobook everyday. That’s become a big part of my morning routine. As soon as I open my eyes, I start listening to a book. I’m not a morning person so it kind of helps me prepare for the day. And then sometimes when I get home from work I’m too tired to read so I watch TV. It varies. And on top of that I’m a bit of a mood reader. This is why I’m usually reading 3 different books at one time lol. Because I pick one up and I get into it. But maybe the next day I don’t feel like reading it so I start a new book. I bounce back and forth between books a lot. And some days I don’t sit down and read. As long as I’ve listened to a bit of an audiobook though I feel accomplished with my daily reading. Reading is supposed to be fun. I do everything I can to keep it that way. I’m almost done with the challenge. The good thing about doing it is that now I know better 😉

        Hm. Well I’ll be keeping a lookout for your poetry! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I don’t know how you manage to listen to audiobook in the morning unless you’ve drunk a lot of coffee, I would be straining my ears. Can’t believe how some people can read more than one book at a time! 3 as well. Me committing to one book is probably one of the very few things in life I can commit to lol. If you’re listening to an audiobook though, I would still count that as reading. Paha, yep, lol, keep it free-spirited with the reading challenges next time cos those things are some serious pressure cookers.

          Thanks. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Lmao! No coffee. No caffeine actually. It took a while to get used to audiobooks. Now, I feel like something’s missing when I don’t listen to one in the morning. I can’t commit to one book 😉 lol. I’ve tried. And I always end up picking up another book smh

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh girl, I TOTALLY know what you mean!!!!! I had this with several books lately too. And sometimes the pull between writing or reading can render me unproductive if i don’t know what I’m in the mood for or what to choose. You put into words a “crisis” I had never articulated before. Glad I’m not the only one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s such a struggle! I don’t know if those books were entertaining, but sometimes you just gotta ditch a bad book if it’s just not doing it for you or you’re not in the mood for it. But I guess yours is taking a more serious turn because you’re not really sure what mood you’re in, maybe you’re just not in the mood for either writing or reading?

      And thank you! Glad that you can relate to this. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I myself likethe idea of reading to your mood. There are times of stress that we need to read something positiver and beautiful to help us avoid falling into a funk. Then, others period we need romance or adventure, or a relaxing read to chill,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reading some beautiful and positive poetry usually does the trick, so if I’m going according to my mood, I feel a strong desire to read some poetry. Adventure novels are magical reading experiences, although I do tend to avoid romances, I’m far too picky.

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    1. If I related to Anne, then I think you will too. A lot. But fair warning, not a lot happens, but I think that’s the point, that Jewish people’s movements were so restricted. But Anne really comes of age through her diary entries, and I have a good feeling that you will be able to understand and relate to her. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sometimes when I’m looking for a new picture to take I realize that I’m struggling with trying to find new angles on the same spots. It then becomes clear that I’m not bored with taking photos. I’m bored with the location and subject matter. Exhaustion also comes into play as this is the busy season for both my day job and my side hustle. All of this comes together and effects my creativity.
    The cure is to change the routine. Mix it up a little and above all take some pressure off of yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

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