This is a cautionary tale, and one that could have been much worse.
I, you see, am an avid reader. You can often catch me — Kindle in hand — admiring prose from authors like Truman Capote, or Googling how much LSD it takes to actually kill a man after reading Hunter S. Thompson. On any given weekend, I might be in the mood to read poetry by Maya Angelou or perhaps dream of throwing away all my worldly possessions and moving to a cabin in the woods a la Henry David Thoreau.
These were masters of their craft, and I enjoy being transported into their world, even if just temporarily.
Goodreads, a social network for bookworms, understands that I love words, and provides me with all the material — ratings, reviews, and recommendations from friends — I need to create years-long reading lists that I can only hope I survive long enough to tackle. The site understands our affinity for words, and because of this it attempts to beat us over the head with them.
Let’s backtrack for a second. Goodreads sends a lot of email, and recently I got tired of it. I went to unsubscribe (after telling myself to unsubscribe 9,000 times instead of just hitting the archive button). It was time. I’d suffered enough.
At a glance, it didn’t appear I was actually subscribed to anything at all, as seen here.
Day 1: Our first roadblock. I’m already marked ‘never’ on receiving email from friends. Then who the hell is sending these things? Let’s investigate.
That didn’t take long, I’ve found the culprit. A few clicks and…
Day 16: That’s a lot of checkmarks. This has to be the problem. After just a metric shit ton of clicking, I’m finally through with this ordeal and can go back to hating email from people other than Goodreads.
Seriously, though, why choose to notify people of everything, literally everything, by default? Seems like a sure-fire one-way trip to the spam bin, but what do I know?
That’s a lot of clicking, I’m starting to get light-headed. My fingers are cramping up. I could really use something to eat, and perhaps a nap. No time for that, though, I have to power through.
Day 44: My calendar has rolled over to a new month; Happy February. I had no idea this would take so long. More clicking, more email, I can feel my blood pressure rising.
I’m dizzy. I think it’s time to lie down. I can no longer feel my fingertips. My mouse has a permanent hole burned into the spot my index finger delicately — and then not-so-delicately — un-checked these boxes, and I’m pretty sure I’m experiencing the early stages of psychosis.
I’m going to need a new mouse, but it’ll have to wait until I re-hydrate and perhaps take a nap. I’m exhausted, I’m not as young as I used to be. Still, I gut it out. This is for the greater good, I remind myself.
Day 71: It’s the end of March now, but the end is in sight. I’ve come this far, and I have no intention of turning back.
I never got that nap, but I did abandon the process temporarily after developing carpal tunnel. My doctor, in case you were wondering, said I should regain full use of my hands at some point down the road. I’m still dizzy, I’m beginning to hear colors, and I think an owl has taken up residence on top of my iMac.
I’m now gripping a pencil in my teeth and tapping my newly-ordered mouse to clear the last of these damn checkmarks.
This isn’t so bad. Just one more section and I think I’m good.
Day 93: I’ve done it. After looking at my calendar, I see it is now April. I wonder if the flowers are in bloom? It’s such a beautiful time of year; I’m glad I didn’t miss it.
There was, however, collateral damage.
I wore eight pencils down to the nub finishing the job, and I’ll need another new mouse. I can’t feel anything below my shoulders, I’m dehydrated, I’ve lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 38 pounds, the owl residing on my iMac has long-since died. But it’s not all bad news; with medication I hardly even notice the hallucinations.
Is the owl real? If not, what’s that smell?
It was a process, but one I feel stronger after having undertaken.
After making it to the bottom of the page, I feel a calm coming over me. The voices are quieting, I take my first bite of real food in weeks, and I’m beginning to heal. In a few short weeks, I’ll be good as new, or at least a lot better off than that owl.
One day, this will all be but a memory, a story I can tell my grandkids.
Wait. Is that…