If you asked me for the title of a book that I’ve read sometime over the last year, my answer would be, sadly, my microeconomics textbook. If you stretch that year to two years or even four, my answer would still be a textbook or required reading of some sort. It’s a sad truth for a lot of college students – and working adults – that I’ve talked to: reading, books, and the imaginary worlds that many once indulged in as children have quietly faded away beneath the humdrum of life’s routine. Outside those who (blasphemously) don’t like to read, there are many who simply no longer have the time or energy to do so anymore.
As a girl who once read everything voraciously, thinking about this lost hobby makes me feel a little lost myself. I remember making frequent use of my library card – now considered a relic – and checking out maybe three to four books at a time to read over a week. I remember progressing from twenty-page, picture-filled children’s pieces to thicker novels. I remember running to the library on a Sunday morning and sliding my returns into a little metal mailbox before pulling open the double doors for more. I remember when reading was fun, leisurely, with none of the pressure of memorizing minor details for tests or completely understanding the underlying meanings for papers. I remember feeling at home among the stacks of library books; nowadays, they just seem like foreign, scary mazes to me.
The loss of my reading almost mimics the loss of innocence that comes with growing up. With high school comes the pressure of going to a good college; of passing your driving exam; and of getting that first, crappy, minimum-wage job at some retail store in the mall. And with college comes the pressure of getting that internship, of getting into that fraternity, of getting that job, of getting the perfect schedule – suddenly, the real world swallows all the fiction. I would buy novels at the bookstore, only to leave them, stacked and collecting dust, at the corner of my desk, next to my open textbooks, my laptop and smartphone. After all the schoolwork is finished, and after I’ve come home from dinner with family, movies with friends, Facebook messaging with my faraway cousins, applying for internships and jobs, working, extracurricular activities, etc., my mind and my eyes are too tired to follow Harry, Ron and Hermione as they fight dark wizards in Harry Potter, or mourn over Augustus and Hazel’s tragic love story in The Fault in Our Stars. It’s like what my mother sometimes told me when I am unable to do something that I wish to do: “Life sometimes just gets in the way.”
But in reality, I know that I get in the way of myself – for every person that “can’t make the time” to pick up a good book, there is always another who can’t seem to put a good book down. There has always been a high correlation between those who read often, those who write well, and those who communicate and formulate ideas in impressive, profound and exciting ways. Working at the Writing Center has introduced me to a whole plethora of these interesting individuals – individuals who have inspired me to try and revive my old, childlike-wonder of books, authors, imagination and words. I’ve learned here that good writers and good thinkers start by being good readers first. I want to be a good writer. I want to be a good thinker. So I guess I have to start by being a good reader – and that means turning off the laptop, putting away the smartphone, and maybe even closing my math binder every once and a while and simply and belatedly dusting off one of those novels that I bought almost too long ago.
After all, if I hope to have someone, someday, see my name on the binding of my own book, I better start by opening up one myself.