Part of my identity has always been that I am a reader. I cannot remember a time in my childhood — from my earliest memories — that I did not love books or count myself among those who love reading; whether it was thick, cardboard-paged books about a spotty dog, The Famous Five, Sweet Dreams (cringe!), Sweet Valley, then finally the more mature books about life, love and such… books formed a huge part of my identity.
But, increasingly, in my young adult years through to my current adult years (old adult?), I’ve found less and less time for reading. And I know that’s just because I’ve made less time for it. I’ve found more distractions, more stress, more work, more world news, more to fret about, and more Facebook and YouTube to numb my brain with.
I often found myself joking that I probably could no longer call myself a reader if I don’t actually read…
And I’d joke that I’m an English teacher who hardly ever reads (for leisure)…
These are extremely unfunny jokes, I know.
SIDE NOTE: To be fair though, I’m not completely hypocritical as The English Teacher Who Doesn’t Read. Firstly, my hundreds and hundreds of books in my youth must make up for some of the lack of it in these recent years, no? Come on, there were a super many books that I read in my youth — you know, sitting at my desk in my bedroom, with school books spread out in front of me, so that I may quickly shove my novel under when Mom walks in. And I had one of those round push/touch lamps that I would use at night, under the duvet, when it was time for lights out.
And… My mom used to take my stacks of books from me and hide them away because I read while I was supposed to do homework and study. I always found the hiding places though.
ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: I haven’t not read anything at all in these recent years — I’ve read some good stuff here and there; I quite enjoyed John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. And I’ve read the setwork novels for my teaching prep: Animal Farm by George Orwell, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and lots of Shakespeare drama. (I have grown to love and appreciate Shakespeare much more than I did in my teens!) And there have also been other random novels in between. I read some poorly-written ‘chick lit’. I’m not proud of that. And several non-fiction, historical reads. A few novels by Muslim authors also made their way into my repertoire. So yeah, I’ve been reading… stuff. As long as we understand all the side notes before we proceed and stop judging the English Teacher…
The thing is, those moments of getting utterly and completely lost in a book, where I can’t wait to turn reality off and climb back inside my new world of characters and places and faces, have been too few and far between. People talk about the latest books they’ve read with giddy excitement, exchanging notes and little anecdotes, and I can only take my old reading memories off the shelves of my mind and blow off the dust, and contribute my measly 5 cents. Or just remove myself from the conversation altogether.
My identity was no longer Reader. My answer to ‘interests’ could no longer be reading. This perplexed me for a while, but I shoved it away and, much like I didn’t have time for reading, also didn’t have time to think about this new identity, or absence of identity.
But… you can run but you can’t hide. It started catching up with me. Reading was my escape: from stress, from pressure, from boredom, from the mundane, from idleness. It was also my destination. Then I found I had no escape. And I had no destination. I was just going through the humdrum. I missed the visits with the characters between the pages of good books; I missed the intensity of their stories and I missed travelling through new lands.
The intensity of my own story, my own stress of work and life, were my everyday visitors. I didn’t realise I needed books. I thought it was just a nice old pastime. I had forgotten that reading wasn’t just my childhood hobby — it was my identity. It is fundamental to every aspect of who I am — I’ve just forgotten how to enjoy it.
On a conscious level I knew the benefits of reading. I knew that it alleviates stress, stimulates creativity, increases concentration, etc., etc. But who really listens to their own inner-psychologist?
So while I ignored my inner-psychologist, I listened to my real-life doctor. She prescribed that I do something to unwind from time to time. And of course I chose Old Faithful: Reading.
I feel a peculiar sense of giddiness and strange emotional soppiness at this resolve to read again, consistently. Like returning to a beloved, dear old friend. I feel happy.
So to just return to reading again is boring — and what if I fall off the wagon? I thus decided to make it more interesting and at the same time hold myself more accountable, and so I will endeavour to read 300 books before I turn 30! Eeeek! Lol. Exciting and mildly scary. My 30 arrives in roughly 87 weeks. That means I have to read, on average, 3.45 books a week. Hahaha!
Let’s see if I can do it! I’m so up for it!