Page-by-Page

When I’m reading a book, particularly plays for my dramatic literature class, I have trouble immersing myself in the story. I’ve always had selective attention problems, and unless something is completely drawing in all my interest, I find my mind flickering to and from the task at hand too often. This semester, I’m in a dramatic literature class which I enjoy very much, but nonetheless, sometimes reading these plays can feel like a task. It’s a chore to churn through page after page of some play when I’d rather be doing something else. Even if the content interests me, I am flighty. I’m an airy soul. I lose my train of thought.

I constantly find myself counting pages.

“Acts 1 and 2 are due tomorrow,” I brief myself, settling into the comfiest chair available. I fan through the thin anthology pages, sticky fingers slipping over them anxiously. I remember how much I don’t want to do this. I count twenty pages and sigh sharply. Here we go.

On good days, the stories catch my attention and I manage to read through them like its nothing. In a flash, I’ve finished what I was required to do and am now free to read whatever I wish. On bad days, and boy are there bad days, it takes every last drop of my energy to read word after word, line after line, page after page after page.

Fourteen to go. Ten. Seven. One. Finally, I finish.

Even when it comes to things I enjoy, I have realized I always find myself wondering when they will be over. When will I finish this book I’m reading? When will I finish this T.V. series I’m watching? When will I finish writing these stories that I pour my heart and soul into every day? I have roughly the attention span of a crippled blind gnat, so as soon as one thing begins, I grow bored and start looking forward towards the next thing. Where will life take me now? It’s as though I’m a wide-eyed puppy wondering what its human will do next. Will he blink?! Will he stand up?! All of it is more exciting than my current dog state.

I found myself particularly perplexed recently by my constant forethought. It occurred to me while reading yesterday that I have no need to count pages. As I read, they will turn, and the number, however high, will dwindle slowly down to zero. I realized it doesn’t matter whether I’m a quarter, a half, a third of the way done with my book, movie, etc. What matters is that in this moment, I am reading, watching, breathing, being. I’m allowed to just sit and enjoy a moment. Sometimes that’s hard to forget.

We all have the tendency to look ahead of ourselves, and oftentimes there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s when that tendency overshadows our ability to feel our true feelings and be present in time that it becomes a problem. Books may have been my metaphor, but this entry comes from a deeper place than that.

For those who are new, I have struggled with depression and anxiety since early middle school. I’m currently on some medication, but no method is foolproof. When you have depression, your body doesn’t like to let you be happy or even content. There’s science to it: a lack of serotonin in the brain, which my medication works to counteract. Despite my best efforts, and despite the knowledge that all will be well, I sometimes cannot help but slip into a dark place. Without delving too deeply into my personal life and psychosis, I can at the very least tell you this: last night was hard.

Allow me to get somewhat personal for a moment. I’m at a crossroads in my life, a defining stage in my young adulthood. I am just beginning college, trying to figure out what I want to do. I’m currently unemployed, and as such, going relatively broke. I spent the last two or so years miserable, working my ass off for near-minimum wage, and to see those hard-earned savings begin to dwindle is exhausting in and of itself. Sometimes, I find myself in a frenzied mix of rational and irrational worry. What will my future hold? The question is too tempting for my untrained mind to resist, and so I chew on it for hours, holding my breath and sinking slowly until I settle on the sandy bottom of depression bay.

Today, I’ve let my breath go and floated back to the surface. I’m better. Remember that like good things, all bad things must come to an end. As I write this, I don’t feel too bad at all. I was reminded how many wonderful things I have to cherish, how even the dimmest of moments can hold the faintest of glows. A few months ago, I would have struggled to bounce back this quickly, even during the best of times. I’m alright, and I’ll be alright. We all will. It’s just a matter of realizing we don’t need to worry about it.

Counting pages will not change the course of my novel’s plot. There’s no point in anticipating what will happen when I can simply read the story. Like all changes, this development will take time, but I hope to live more and more in the moment each day. While I can still wonder or hope for things to come, I must live my life the way it’s meant to be lived. From now on, I hope to write my story the way we all should read them: one page at a time.

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