Running On Empty


I won’t pretend that part of my interest in memes isn’t personal — on top of just desiring a quick laugh every now and then to let me temporarily unburden myself of all the things I’m trying to do, I prefer shorter breaks from my work to longer ones — but for the most part, studying memes is kind of part of my job. If I want to reach my students effectively, then I need to be able to be familiar with their languages and customs, even if I don’t participate in them myself. Memes are not only a substantial part of many cultures (especially those dominated by college-age people), but can also be a good barometre of a culture’s values and norms. (Sometimes, though, it’s just that we all need those quick distractions from the rest of the world, and that may be more true than ever these days.)

A couple of categories of memes have been on my mind lately, the first being those memes that depict people going out of their minds trying to connect various things to each other, usually in the vein of conspiracy theories. I’ve seen those memes a lot over the past few years, but they didn’t leave much of an impact on me. As I’ve been getting deeper and deeper into the research for my next book, though (and again, please join my Patreon for exclusive updates about that process), I almost feel like I need to defend the whole process of doing deep research on a topic, documenting things out and looking for connections between things that other people haven’t found yet. Maybe I’ll get a pass from some people on that because I’m writing a book and all, but since my book will ultimately be political in nature, that pretty much guarantees I’ll be depicted as a conspiracy theorist by some people who oppose my politics. I guess I need to develop a thicker skin about that stuff here, because it’s pretty much inevitable for me at this point.

More recently, though, the spate of memes regarding people who loudly advocate for others to practice good self-care routines, but then turn around and work themselves down to nubs, have been hitting a little too close to home. Not following the good advice that I give others has been a recurring theme in my life, especially when it comes to self-care, and memes on that topic were already fairly common before this year. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, these memes are not only growing in frequency, but also in painfulness as they force me to confront my own shortcomings when it comes to taking care of myself.

In all honesty, I feel maybe half-conscious as I’m typing these words Monday afternoon; I normally draft these blogs over the weekend and then just edit them down before I post them, but I was taking care of so many other things this past weekend that I came into Monday not only without a blog, but without the slightest idea of what I might blog about. As if that weren’t bad enough, my brain just wouldn’t shut off when I tried to go to bed last night, so I’m operating on only a few hours of sleep right now, and pretty much every word I’ve typed or spoken today has felt like a mindless ramble. This blog still needs to get written, though, so I’m forcing myself to put word after word up on my computer screen here, and just hoping that all the practice I’ve put into writing will help me come up with something remotely coherent by the time I post it this evening.

This would be bad enough on its own, but because I’ve fallen behind on some things here, I’d been hoping to use the long break over Thanksgiving to catch up on that stuff. I’d been building myself up for this big productivity surge after I teach on Tuesday, but now I’m feeling like I’m going to have no choice but to lie in bed and just try to let myself recover from everything I’ve been pushing myself through here. Even in my present sleep-deprived fog, I can recognize that this is exactly what my body and brain need right now, and yet I feel myself resisting that idea with every fibre in my being because I’ve got so much of an opportunity to get things done this coming week. I’m being even stupider than usual, and I don’t like that.

If any of my friends or colleagues came to me complaining about the same things I’m complaining about, of course I wouldn’t hesitate to tell them that they needed to slow down, take things easily for a little while, and give themselves time to recover. That would be good advice at any time, but it’s especially important to do that as we all deal with the stress of the pandemic and the fallout of this month’s election. I already know I won’t do that, though. Even though I feel half-conscious (at best) right now, I’m already thinking about the reading I want to do here, and the note-transferring I could still do here if I don’t feel lucid enough to read.

In case you couldn’t tell, this is hardly the first time I’ve had to deal with these problems, although perhaps not to the same extent I’m dealing with them right now thanks to how crazy the world outside this apartment is right now. If I’m not careful, though, then things could get a whole lot worse for me inside this apartment, since I’m not going to be any good to anyone if I don’t rest up here somehow. I’ll try to balance out my need for rest here with all the other things I’m trying to do, but it’s hard to look ahead to the rest of this week and not see me pushing myself to the limit when it comes to researching my next book and taking care of campus business. I just hope I haven’t reached that limit yet, because I’m sure feeling that way right now. Those memes of people passed out in random spaces may soon be a lot more relevant to my life here.

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