My thesis adviser asked me, “What is the motivation for people to read?”
I did not think very long. “Catharsis,” I replied. “People want to feel better. Or, I guess with happier books, some people want escape their current reality.”
I spoke as if it were truth. I never quite understood why some writers would write about stories that were not autobiographical by nature. The act of creating… it is a motivation that seems foreign to me. I never had been good at creating nor did I ever enjoy creating. It is writing for the sake of writing for the sake of catharsis. The end product of my writing always had been unimportant to me. I never cared about what individuals had to say about my writing; I merely wrote for the sake writing for me. That has been the sole motivation since I started to journal in sixth grade, and that has been the sole motivation since then.
She conceded but ultimately disagreed with my assessment. Underlying my statement is the assumption that all writing is a means to escape sadness. Writing and therapy had always been intertwined for me, and I could not conceptualize one without the other. It had been why I started to write. It had been why I continued to write. The idea of writing without an intended emotional catharsis ontologically impossible to me.
My thesis advisor recommended me that I write outside of the confines of of therapy writing. I reluctantly agreed with her recommendation in the spirit of open-mindedness. Subsequently, I started to write stories that were not autobiographical by nature. I wrote about characters with emotions other than sadness. Namely, I tried creating a happy character. The task seemed inconceivable. It was like attempting to describe a color that I have never seen. How am I suppose to write about an emotion that I do believe to exist? I gave up all my attempts a couple of minutes into writing. I am taking a break, for now. To me, the motivation to write only comes in one forms: being sad. There is very little that exists in the world besides that.
Ever since I started to go to CAPS in the beginning of freshman year, I have always been struck at how useless for feeling better it was of me to articulate my sentiments and experiences to and individual with little to no investment in my life. I would arrive on time, waiting to be called in. My therapist, whom I have been seeing monthly until the end of my junior fall, would waddle in and call my name. I have seen him enough times throughout the year where he would still know my name, which I suppose should make me feel better. Then, after he walks me into his office, I would talk to a wall for the next hour before he closes with, “That’s all the time we have for today. Would you like to schedule your next appointment?”
Walls absorb sound. When you speak into a wall, the sound does not come back. Energy that you expel is not returned to you. Following the first law of thermodynamics, the energy that you dedicate towards running from sadness is absorbed into another being, where it mutates and becomes an energized nothingness that is no longer accessible to you. Or, alternatively, the system is open and the energy truly sinks into the void.
Similarly, every time I would go to CAPS, I would always end up more emotionally drained than I had been before I arrived. I would come into the office nearing to point of succumbing to exhaustion from pushing the boulder, as Sisyphus would eventually feel. And, when I left the office, I have already given up and let the boulder roll over me. But, despite this disillusionment with using counseling and psychological services, I continued to go because I wanted to satisfy some sort of social conception that I was doing everything in my power to address a series of deeply ingrained dissatisfaction cursorily labeled, ‘mental health’.
Somewhere along the way, I completely lost faith in dialogue as a means to address sadness. It is an sentiment that I still hold. My experiences have informed me that there is no point in discussing sadness. Doing so would only expend energy that will never return without any form of meaningful catharsis. And, seeing as there are only finite means to address sadness through language, I turned to writing. There are other methods, of course, but access to other methods is dependent on opportunity that is not necessarily decided by me. Writing, in contrast to other forms of alleviation, is accessible to all, and I have always found the universal access to writing to be quite beautiful.
Whenever I would feel especially sad, I would write about my sadness. If I am being honest, It seems that most of my writing is just another description of the same sadness. Some days, I would talk about feeling inadequate in different facets of my life. It could be that I was browsing LinkedIn for a bit too long or I was spending time with friends who are endless more satisfied with their lives than me. Some days, I would feel especially sensitive to the indifference of the universe. It could be that I spent too much time with too many people or too little time with too few people. Some days, I would have no reason for feeling sad at all. Some days be like that.
I wonder if I will ever reach a point in my life where I would run out of ways to articulate my sadness.