Now that I’ve stopped spending so much of my time watching TV, I’ve spent much more of my time reading books. This has been really good for me. Probably better than anything else I’ve undertaken in the past year, and that includes moving to Spain. Taking the time to rediscover reading has re-exposed me to a larger degree of narratives and perspectives than I’ve encountered in a while. I’ve found this important because when it comes down it, reading builds empathy.
When I was younger, even when in college, I was a voracious reader. I was the kind of kid that cut class to go read in the public library across the street. With nothing much going in High School beyond after-school sports practice and writing articles for the school paper, reading was a part of my daily life. Yes, I played a lot of video games as well (and still do). But during the grueling hours of school there was not much to do except read.
Since finishing college and experiencing the burnout of post-graduate life, I’ve had to rediscover reading. After being forced to read for school for so long (at some times, 2 books a week), reading kind of lost its luster. There were some books that have genuinely changed my world view from college, but overall a lot of it is a blur. At a certain point if you can’t even recall what you’ve read, is there even a point in reading?
Like the above quote, my relationship with reading became multifaceted and a bit toxic. No longer was reading something I associated with pleasure or enjoyment. Now reading was just work. And hard work at that. There’s a reason that most of us that make New Year’s Resolutions to go to the gym end up stopping within a month or two. Instead, I realized, you need to make it into a routine. And not just any routine. It needs to be a routine you enjoy, one that is an integral part of your life.
Like anything worth doing, shaking up your life is hard. When your default is to Netflix and Chill (in all senses of the phrase), you’re not exactly ready to jump into a comprehensive history of ancient Rome. But keeping my reading list interesting is exactly what has kept reading interesting in general. If you just read one type of book you’re going to burn out, just like in college. Instead, it’s better to read a variety of books. Literary fiction and YA are great, but they aren’t the only types of books out there. Reading something outside of your perspective will actually help you gain some perspective.
Since working to rediscover reading, I’ve found that I’m actually enjoying my life more. Adding more perspectives has given me a lot more to look forward to and a lot more to discover. Not only have I been able to use reading to understand the world around me, but it’s also helped me gain insight I haven’t had in the past. And that insight, in whatever form it may take, is what makes life worth living.