Reading Fatigue: Pulling Myself out of a Literary Rut

By Erika Nelson

Every month, the Goodreads newsletter pops into my inbox. These emails taunt me by singing the praises of newly-published books: colorful rectangle covers lined up into neat rows by genre; enticing blurbs draw me in. I used to pore over these newsletters and make library holds based on book suggestions, but now emails from Goodreads just evoke guilt.

I love to read. As an English major, I think that goes without saying, but I love to read more than the average person. I’ll read pretty much anything. Fiction and nonfiction. Science texts and sci-fi novels. The latest poignant, “deep” literary triumphs alongside “comfort food” stories from childhood. A few years ago, I consumed the New Yorker cover-to-cover in an evening.  I read a book (or more) every couple weeks. More recently, however, my “to-read” list has grown longer and longer, my Goodreads account sits in stagnant silence, and I rarely read for fun anymore. Why?

College involves a lot of reading, and majoring in English involves even more reading. I read so much for school every day that by the time I have some free moments the last thing I want to do is pick up another book. Instead — and I hate to admit this — most of my spare time is spent glued to my phone. I keep up on news articles and current event pieces online and off … but when it comes to reading for the sake of reading, anything longer than 280 characters doesn’t have much of a chance.

Reading fatigue is fairly common in academic circles. In a recent discussion post on D2L, I asked classmates if they had any ideas to wake up from my word fugue. People commiserate and several expressed the same problem. They had some great ideas for combatting reading fatigue: reading while sipping my morning coffee, having a specific reading space, and reading in bite-sized pieces. From their suggestions, I’ve decided to set myself a New Month’s Resolution: read one non-school book a month for the rest of the year.

I think this is a reasonable goal, if I can manage to tear myself away from my phone more often … this is where self-discipline comes in. However, I’m going to allow myself some grace if I fall behind — after all, life happens, and instructor-assigned reading comes first. I’m excited to get started! Step one: Look over that email from Goodreads.

My Journey So Far: Reflecting on My First Year at PSU

By Erika Nelson

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been at PSU for a year now! The last 12 months have brought more changes and challenges than I could have possibly imagined, both in my personal life and the world at large. Since I first became a Viking in September 2019, I’ve switched jobs, broken up with a long-term partner, changed my major, found a new partner, had a major medical emergency, spent almost four months out of town because of the pandemic, and moved apartments … wow. That’s a lot of drama to squeeze into one year. 

If I could go back in time, I’d change a lot of things (first off: warn people about COVID-19, obviously). However, I’ve learned so many lessons and found a new strength and sense of accomplishment from everything I went through. When I feel down on myself, I try to remember how much I’ve grown in a mere 12 months …

My newfound sense of direction

Last autumn, downtown PDX’s urban sprawl seemed like a labyrinth. I was constantly getting lost, relying on Google Maps to get to classes or do errands. Today, I move through the neighborhood on instinct and have all the street names memorized. (“Are you looking for Starbucks? Do you want the one on 6th in the Urban Center, the one on Jefferson inside of Safeway, or the one on Broadway and Clay? Don’t bother trying the ones on Jackson or Montgomery; they’re temporarily closed.”) I’m starting to feel like a local!

A new passion for wellness

A year ago, I was a brand-new suburban transplant who rarely walked anywhere for necessity, much less for fun. A lack of endurance made simple trips to the store a sweaty ordeal. Now, I’m so accustomed to walking every day, I get cabin fever when I have nowhere to go. In addition, I started running regularly and attending workout classes (before social distancing, that is), and started paying closer attention to what I ate. I did end up losing weight, which I’m proud of, but I feel better, which is so much more important than a number on a scale. 

Having faith in my journey

My first term at PSU, I was a Business major — while aspects of the field interested me (and still do), I was only on that track out of fear — what if I couldn’t find a career to make money majoring in the humanities? However, I soon realized that I needed to take a chance and major in what I loved; what felt right. Now, I’m a happy English major and I’m exploring the idea of law school. I love literature and challenging myself to find connections and interpretations in various media, and applying those ideas to real life. I had to take a few steps back in my graduation timeline (changing my major as a junior means I’ll be at PSU a couple extra terms), but I’m happy where I am. It’s better to take a leap of faith than always wonder “what if?”

It’s easy to focus on all the ways life sucks … and let’s be honest, life sucks for pretty much everyone right now. Life is complicated even in the best of times, and we’ve all had our lives disrupted by this virus — it’s ok to be angry, sad, scared, or anywhere else on the spectrum of emotions. Yet it’s also important to pause and reflect on the good. I’m not someone who subscribes to the tenet of destiny, or says “everything happens for a reason,” but I do believe there’s lessons to be learned in every situation: good, bad, and in-between.