The difference between a good story and a bad story is this: A good story can be about seemingly nothing, and yet rattle, shake, or move you unexpectedly. The prose will shine like a diamond amid a bed of coals and you — the reader — will find yourself lost in the imagery.
A bad story is like being told you’re headed to Six Flags Amusement park, only to end up at a ratty park heading in circles on a sad, little merry-go-round.
But what makes a great story are the ones you remember. They’re like the ending sequence in the movie Inception where you’re left to dwell on whether the spinning top faltered. Are they stuck in a dream sequence? And that nagging, gnawing thought buries itself inside your skull to haunt you over the coming weeks.
So without further introduction, these were my favorite articles (and I read thousands) that stuck with me like a tick. I’ve divided them into four categories: Alarming, Authentic, Hilarious, and The Absolute Best.
Each day I open my computer and talk with people I don’t know, yet want to kill themselves or are so depressed they can’t function. That’s part of the work I do at HeartSupport. But what happens when your friends feel the same and bury their feelings inside social media? What if social media was the culprit instead of a cure? What if everyone continues to shout into the void of social media about how lonely and depressed they are? Michael R. McBride digs deep into his own demons while reflecting on T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” to bring you an all too familiar tale.
Why Do All My Friends Want to Kill Themselves?
When depression is just one push notification away
I have a friend who streams music on musical.ly and amassed a huge following (in the hundreds of thousands). He reached out after he received hundreds of messages from young female fans. Many dealt with self-harm, eating disorders, and suicide ideation. The worst part? They all seemed to glorify these issues. Anastasia Basil’s piece on how musical.ly has a disturbing and prominent dark side was like drinking water you discover is bottled in a sewage. If you’re a parent, then reading this is non-negotiable.
Jonathan Parks-Ramage can write. Not only can he write but he’ll suck you into a vortex of his own emotions that ooze onto the page. When he attends a popular mega-church in Hollywood, the journey becomes one of emotional connection and community while struggling with the church’s theological beliefs. His existential crisis reveals his own demons and what he worships, but the reader doesn’t get a neat, bowtie ending. Instead, like any faith journey, there are more questions than answers.
Jesus, Mary, and Joe Jonas
A journey into Reality L.A., Hollywood’s hippest evangelical church
I know people who pull two-a-days at the gym multiple times a week. On the exterior they appear the perfect picture of health. But add in calorie counting and the obsessive nature of how their life revolves around what time they can head to the gym — even when on vacation — and you have the new eating disorder of the 21st century. The only problem is no one calls this an eating disorder. Their friend is just a “gym rat.” Meagan Prins steps forward to share how her life became one giant eating disorder in the name of health.
I Couldn’t See I Had an Eating Disorder
The hiding, the counting, and how you can be free
Hilal Isler works at a bar where she doesn’t drink. Instead she takes random — often hilarious — notes observing her patrons while her Turkish friends encourage her to drink. The story that follows is a coming of age tale where a woman raised in Saudi Arabia battles whether or not to take a shot.
I found Christopher Daniels (Notorious DCI) earlier this year and the first article I read was this one. I’m a sucker for inane ramblings with a side of comedy. So when you mix mayo and romantic relationships, then churn out one of the funniest things I’ve read in a while — that even Ev Williams highlights — you’ve produced solid comedic gold.
10 Signs You Picked the Wrong Man All Having To Do With Mayonnaise
If the guy you’re seeing makes this list then he doesn’t cut the mustard.
Devon Henry comes up with a pitch for a movie that ends up so insane and rant-y that midway through the piece I was cackling so hard, my wife kept asking me what was wrong. The movie involves Devon becoming Katy Perry’s doppelgänger and running a cat cafe. Seriously.
A Movie Idea I Had While Broke and Eating Cauliflower Pizza with My Roommate
Guys, okay, I had this idea. And I know it sounds crazy but, like, just hear me out. Nostalgia is totally a Thing right…
Satire at its finest, funnyman Luke Trayser takes on the crap we all hate on Medium: people who are not millionaires teaching you how to become a millionaire while quoting Elon Musk.
This is the ONLY thing you need to do to become a multi-millionaire.
Warning: This is the worst kind of content on Medium.
The Absolute Best
Let me preface this section by saying I know, I know. You’ll think I sold out picking two Medium feature articles instead of all homegrown authors. I get that even the editors on Medium also chose one of these as their favorite articles this year, but it doesn’t change the fact they’re phenomenal.
Author Meghan Daum’s long read into how she grew tired of the polarizing political, scientific, and moral issues of the day forced her into a love affair with the men and women of — who’ve been oddly dubbed — The Intellectual Dark Web. Weaving a narrative of loss (her marriage) and seeking companionship in intellectual thought (meetups for Jordan Peterson fanboys), this story struck a cord as I reflected on our fractured times.
My Affair With the Intellectual Dark Web
Meet my new friends. I found them on Free Speech YouTube.
One part poetry, the other reflection, Caroline Grace Stefko’s piece forced me to wander through the woods one weekend for no other reason than to enjoy nature… alone. Her reflections of a simpler, analog childhood will resonate with those who remember looking up movie times in a newspaper, exploring the outdoors, building forts, and taking plenty of time to be alone with our thoughts. This article punched me in all the feels and brought about a distinct sense of Saudade — a Portuguese word we have no equivalent for in English (Saudade is a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return).
Memories of my Analog Childhood
Reflections of a simpler time before the ubiquity of technological distraction — and why I wish I could return
But my favorite article? That title belongs to Stephanie Georgopulos. Sure, it’s kinda unfair that she’s also a Medium editor, but I don’t care. That’s because she took a story about mobile gaming — something I care nothing for and think ridiculous — and stole my attention for a solid fifteen minutes. The storytelling reminds me of Patrick Rothfuss and his bestseller The Name of the Wind. Not much happens in the book, but the storytelling is so superb, he could write about picking apples and you’d be entranced. Stephanie does the same here. All the writing aside, she tackles how most of us find something to numb our emotions in the 21st century. Everyone will find a piece of themselves smattered in this article. I saw my OCD when she stated she cleans her entire house once a week, something I do as well. Gamer, addict, or self-help guru, no one escapes this piece unscathed.
It’s All Fun and Games Until You Run Out of Coins
Mobile games became such a welcome distraction from my life that, soon, I didn’t have one
Before you @ me, remember this is my personal list. However, I'm open to hearing if I missed one you think I should read. Let me know in the comments!
P.S. If you’re curious what I wrote in 2018 that was my favorite, it’s a tie between these two: