Once, I was the kid with the book. In high school, everyone needs a label whether it be preppy cheerleader, overly-enthusiastic MUN club member, or seasonal athlete. Unable yet to define our true selves, we embraced stand-in, simplified personalities. And with these personalities came easy communities, defined along cafeteria-table lines. I always sat with my friend, Periodic Table kid, and her friends, the Anime fanatics. Sometimes before lunch, I would set my book down, carefully avoiding any apple sauce stains, and work my way towards the serving station. Mostly though, the book would follow me and sustain me as I waited in line. Staring down, barely paying attention to the shuffling feet, my only contribution to the chatter was a few rustling pages. But no, this is not the triumphant story of how a shy, woebegone nerd became the cool, charming center-of-attention. In fact, I was pretty proud of being the nerd. And I am pretty ashamed that I have abandoned that persona, ever since high school.
The problem seemed to be that in college, everyone wanted to do anything, but read. People spent so much time in their various lecture halls scribbling, that they had to conserve any remaining energy for a desperate attempt to translate that scribbling into homework. And no matter how much I ached to pick up a book again, I was just like everyone else. Well, most everyone else. There are still those that add a little extra weight to their backpacks, those that stick a novel between the laptop and all those notebooks. They finish pages during passing periods and chapters before bed. I just go to sleep.
I have often reflected on why I stopped reading. Why does it feel like such an overwhelming burden to start a book when it takes an equal amount of time to watch an episode of television? Even during winter break, I was much more inclined to start an entirely new show than to pick up one of the multitude of books that lay around the house. Perhaps keeping up with reading is simply a more difficult task than other forms of media. For often, when I come back to a book after even a week, I have forgotten the tone, the scattered symbolisms, the motifs. Books, after all, do not come with easy recaps at the beginning of every episode. A book is an old format and thus, does not submit easily to the frenetic pace of modern life. Reading is a consistent exercise and must be sustained, like any good exercise, over some period before it once again becomes an easy habit again.
Right now, a library book languishes on the highest shelf of my room, far harder to access to than my cellphone with all its easy distractions. Still, I sense its pull, its call to adventure.
Reading is an intimate experience at its heart. Phrases that speak only to you, pages that envelope you from the rest of the world. Like any relationship, its hard to commit at first. But slowly, surely, you’re in love.