The last time I wrote one of these, we were still in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown, backsliding from a “re-opening” and loosening of restrictions that never should have happened, with vaccines and their promises just over the horizon but not quite here yet. I was feeling the effects of a world rocked to its core, of a year thrown to the wind and ripped to shreds. I was disoriented, confused, scared, and unmoored from all I had known. It was not a good year, to put it mildly.
And, looking back at 2022, 2020’s not a year I think I’ve fully recovered from.
Part 1: Everything
When I walked into 2022, I was feeling…overwhelmed but confident. I’d made it through 2020 and while 2021 was essentially 2020 part 2, I had a greater certainty in my ability to manage. I felt prepared, ready to take on what was coming for me, instead of being caught on the back foot the entire time. The world was opening up – whether it should’ve or not, in the way it was, being irrelevant- and I was ready to meet it.
On the comics front, this meant I was putting in place my routine. How I was reading things. What I was reading. When I was setting aside the time. And, crucially, what would I do when I started to fall behind on my weekly readings.
I try to read as many comics as I can for the snark of Saturday Morning Panels and to remain knowledgeable about the field at large (and for comprehensive end of year voting.) It’s easy to miss stuff by just reading my favorite few books week in and week out, and by sticking to just the weekly floppy beat. Because of this, my initial piles got…large. Very large. “Scary #s of digital comics and OSHA violating towers of physical ones” large. Thankfully, I had my routine and the ebb and flow of comics continued like a gentle ocean tide.
Then comiXology exploded.
OK. It wasn’t as dire as that sentence makes it sound. Yes, it did stop a number of series I was reading cold as it became impossible to find anything via the service in the shop OR in my library. (Why the FUCK do you put a PERMANANTLY DELETE PURCHASE button in your regular-ass menu Amazon???) And yes, the revocation of DRM-free downloads did mean I ceased purchasing older books, even ones from companies that never offered such downloads. And yes, it made me not want to read any of my previous purchases or the comiXology Unlimited borrows because the app regressed to a buggy mess that’s miserable to read on.
Aside from that, my reading habits were largely unchanged; I simply found other avenues to read the books – Hoopla, mostly – or waited until they went to other services/ended up in print. And for anyone wondering, no. comiXology has not gotten any better. It remains as awful an experience now as it was then.
What this was, however, was a portent for things to come because over the next few months, that ebb and flow? It changed into a rushing torrent that never seemed to stop. One pile became two became three. The numbers climbed; the backlog grew unwieldy and then threatening. And even as it all piled on more and more, I thought: “This is fine. I can do it. I did it before. In fact, let me add more comics to read. I haven’t given enough time to this sector. What about all those webcomics I’d read three pages of and added to my RSS feed? Let’s add those to the mix.”
It was endless. I never thought I’d hit the bottom. I didn’t, in fact; I’m still way behind. To put that into context, I was regularly 6 months behind on most series, I read half as many comics in 2022 as 2021 and until mid-November, I hadn’t read a single new DC comic since January 2022. That’s the longest I’ve gone in 8 years!
You’d think this would be fine – it’s just comics, after all. It’s a hobby and I’m luckier than many that I can read as much as I can. Instead I felt like I was letting myself down. Like I’d failed. The routine I had was all slipping through my fingers like so much sand and the piles were a testament to my inability to handle it all, a feeling reinforced by the rest of my life.Continued below
Part 2: Everywhere
By all accounts, 2022 should have been a good year for me. I became a full time Librarian after a lot of strife. I was finally able to start addressing a few long-term health issues. My prose reading started to finally recover after years of academic papers and assignments had wrung me dry. Despite my issues later in the year, I had finally caught back up with a number of series I’d been behind on and finished a few major series read throughs like “Hellblazer” and IDW’s “Transformers” & “TMNT,” the latter of which is so good I’m tempted to re-read it already.
I joined the management team here at Multiversity Comics, completed my 5-year project of watching Babylon 5, and I was finding my groove with Jaina on Make Mine Multiversity. I even started fiction writing again! Did I finish any of that writing? ……shush. Doesn’t matter. What matters is I started.
In all of this, it’s easy to see how 2022 was a year full of change, much of it good and most of it by my hand, and how it affected my comics reading. Of course I’d have less time for it! Mystery solved. I had more responsibilities, less free time, and what time I had was being ceded to other activities. That sounds healthy…right?
Not really. Time, all the time, for each piece of work, each hobby, each moment of relaxation and life necessity, felt like it was slipping, slipping, slipping away like a bar of wet soap. As the year went on, it also was more and more difficult to accomplish things I used to be able to do easily. What time I had to read was lessened by an increasing pain in my hand. Assignments I used to handle with ease were harder to do, both physically because of my hand and mentally as I struggled to create, and took longer, cascading down the weeks and months and pushing other projects into the stress-zone of crunch time when they really didn’t need to be there. The time between was spent recovering from the last batch and NOT reading comics in order to give my thumb a chance to recover, which in turn led to me delaying work and worsening the next leg of the cycle.
My piles grew, all of them, and I didn’t know which to tackle first, which could be put off, and which needed to be cleared entirely. All the while, a voice in my head kept saying “Why can’t you handle all this? You handled it last year, when things were worse. You handled it in 2020, when you were far busier and far more stressed. There isn’t that much more now than then. What’s wrong with you?”
They kept growing and it was too much. It was too much. I loved what I was doing and it was all. Too. Much.
Part 3: All at Once
When I started 2022, I was optimistic about what the year would hold. What I did not realize was my optimism was poisoned from the start. I expected a slower world, one that learned from the lessons of 2020 and 2021, and instead I ran head first into the wall that was a world thinking the pandemic was over when it still isn’t, “emerging” from it with reckless abandon full of all the old expectations amped up by the “unprecedented productivity” of lockdown and the “successful resilience” of the return to work in 2021.
Gag me with a spoon.
And you wanna know the worst part? I put these same expectations on myself. I wanted to launch a new column in 2022. I even have half a draft from this past January all set up. I wanted to write an article detailing my time at SPX this year, my first time back at a convention since 2019. Again, I have a shell and some photos waiting to be published. I wanted to write so much and read so much and do so much that it reached a point where all I could feel was this feeling of being slowly swallowed by my ambition.
Every day I told myself I needed to be like I was in the past or better. Every time I reached a point of mental exhaustion I told myself that if I do it in 2020 & 2021, two truly difficult years, then I could do it in 2022, the year things got easier, and that I needed to do it or I was failing myself, forgetting that we are creatures of the physical world, of linear time, of cause and effect.Continued below
2020 & 2021 became Schrodinger’s years. Both happening and not. When I needed “motivation,” they happened. When I needed them to explain why I was feeling easily stressed or angry or slow, they didn’t, leading me to assume I was entering the year fresh and full of life instead of running on fumes and being kept afloat by an ever dwindling supply of endorphins.
Here’s the thing about Schrodinger’s paradox though: once it is observed, it collapses into one reality, that reality being 2022 was an absolute nightmare of a year, something I don’t think I realized until just now. I don’t think I’ll fully realize it until, like 2020 and 2021 before it, I’m well outside of it. It was a year of jumping and falling, of plans made and abandoned, of barely holding on not because the world had changed but because we had been changed by the world.
I can no longer move at the same speed for the same amount of time I once did and I don’t want to. I am frequently exhausted by the simplest things and the quietest days and I have to be OK with that. I do not need to stuff every millisecond with stuff, be it stuff I love, am indifferent to, or hate but have to do. I can live a life and steal away moments just for me, just for things that bring me joy and excitement and are just my own.
The piles remain and they will forever remain. I expect I will never see the bottom of them all. Some will be abandoned, some will be given away. Some will shrink through hard work and others through careful pruning.
I am not yet OK with that but I will be, G-d willing, in 2023.