Reading for pleasure used to be my thing. For most of my childhood and adolescence, I was known as a reader. I would spend my nights reading into the early hours of the morning, hoping my parents wouldn’t come check on me to find out that, no, I hadn’t gone to bed at 9 and was, in fact, awake at 1AM reading my beloved books.
My Harry Potter books are well-loved. I’ve read them more times than I can count and have annotated them heavily. My dystopian classics still retain their proud place on my bookshelf at home as my favourite genre. My copy of Pride and Prejudice still sits in the cupboard under my nightstand, having been read when I was probably too young to understand everything and reread once I realized how much I loved the film.
But then school happened.
Suddenly, reading became a chore. Something I needed to do if I wanted to do well in class discussions, write good essays and make good grades. The thought of reading something on top of my already assigned readings filled me with a sense of dread.
And I felt guilty because of it.
I was no longer the reader who looked forward to reading each night before reluctantly dozing off on top of a good book. I was the girl who read to keep abreast of class assignments, dutifully checking chapters and sections of political philosophy, French novels, and political science articles off my to-do list.
Fast forward to my year abroad.
Because of the UK academic system, I didn’t have to worry about drowning in work if I didn’t do one week’s reading. I started reading my assignments [mostly] for the pleasure they brought me.
I even read two books!
Very British Problems, which was a quick, couple hour read that had me giggling the whole way through; and All the Light We Cannot See, a lengthy World-War II historical fiction that grabbed my attention with its pretty diction and, in my opinion, compelling storyline.
I found pleasure in audiobooks as well: a welcome escape from the thoughts racing through my head. Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please! kept me laughing out loud on my way to class. Tina Fey’s Bossypants kept me entertained on train rides. Harry Potter kept me distracted during stressful moments.
But those feelings didn’t last long.
Back to American school meant back to chore reading. I couldn’t bring myself to read for pleasure again, and, crippled with mental health struggles again,I fell back into my comfort zone of watching tv as my means of entertainment and relaxation from reading for class.
Fast forward again to today.
I’ve started re-learning the beauty of the written word. I powered through the new Harry Potter book; I spent a day reading The Opposite of Loneliness and fell in love with its witty prose and short stories that captivated my attention without turning my skeptical mind away from reading for pleasure forever. I’m currently engrossed in another book that I just started.
So I guess the point is this:
School and/or life might derail you from your once-beloved passions. Depression might work its way in there too, as I’m sure it did for me. Don’t try to force yourself into something that once used to bring you pleasure. Test it out every once in a while and, if it feels good, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, try again later. Before this summer, it had been a year-and-a-half since I read anything for the pure pleasure of it. Now, I’ve knocked back two books and am working on my third.
I’m not forcing it, though. If I don’t want to read, then I won’t make myself read. I did that far too much with school readings which clearly put me off from reading for fun. One day, hopefully, I’ll find myself in bed late at night trying to fight off sleep while I attempt to finish off a really captivating book. Until then, I’ll take my progress a few chapters at a time :)