Part 1I’m always of two minds when reading and reflecting on self-help books. They’re inspiring and deceitful, helpful and hurtful, full and empty.I used to be obsessed with personal development: going from one diet or workout program or daily habit or self-help book or motivational speaker or magic pill or ambitious career plan to the next. There’s something thrilling about the chase, about hunting for the quick-fix solution to every insecurity or inconvenience.It took quarantine for me to slow down. Wait, am I chasing something or being chased? Then I stopped and turned around. What am I trying to avoid by chasing “progress”?I, like many people, could no longer avoid or outrun the awareness of death, fear and grief while witness to the persistent state and extrajudicial murder of innocent people and a global pandemic. With everything going on, the cultural parroting of “it’s all on you to create the life you want,” which is often the premise of self-help books, felt delusional and dangerous.I grew up feeling inadequate and deeply afraid of death. That was quite an uncomfortable combination, yet the idea of infinite growth numbed both. It was a little easier to feel bad in the present when believing that growth could make me become good enough in the future. And if growth was the opposite of death, then progress in any aspect of my life assured me that death was far, far away.Of course, that was a lie.