When I was younger, I was that kid – the one with her nose always in a book. Walking down the hall, riding in the car, taking a bath. (Okay, I have never bathed and read. Ever. I value books entirely too much and am entirely too scared of dropping it in the bathtub.) When the Harry Potter books came out, I’d be exhausted during school because throughout the night, I’d be tucked under my covers, reading by the light of my cell phone (which I wasn’t supposed to have in bed anyway). And yes, I had a flip phone, so I’d have to open and close the phone every 30ish seconds – or push a button – to keep the light on! Judge not. As I got older, especially in college, life took over, and I stopped making time for the activities I liked to do. They didn’t fit into my schedule as easily because there was always an assignment to submit, a topic to research, or sleep to catch. Leisure reading became a childhood memory that I vowed to pick up as a reward during a later period of my life when I had finally made it in the world.
Recently, however, I had really grown to miss reading. I hadn’t realized the amount of peace and calmness that it brought into my life. Letting my imagination run a little wild as I flipped the pages was a phenomenal pastime that I wanted back. I remember how overwhelmed I was with excitement and criticism when I’d heard that someone had decided to turn books I love – Harry Potter, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Life of Pi, Eat Pray Love, The Secret Life of Bees – into motion pictures. I was the only one in the room, buzzing with anticipation. Everyone else questioned, “Why …is she …so excited …about a movie?”
This past January, during a 40-day fast, I gave up TV and opted to fill that void with reading. It was nerve-wracking at first because I thought, “There’s gotta be something you need to do!” One day, I just settled on it: I am going to read. I bought The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. And it took me two days to open it! As I parted the pages, I felt like I had finally come home to myself. I felt comfortable. “This is what I should have been doing forever ago.”
I’d never recognized the impact of reading on my creativity or my being as a whole person until I stopped. Because I loved how I felt as I started back reading – yes, after reading less than a chapter in the book – I rushed out and bought several more books. Right now, I have four books in rotation – Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings, Sarah Jakes’ Lost and Found, Solomon Northup’s 12 Years a Slave, and Douglas, Emron, and Aaron Andrews’ Millionaire by Thirty. A little overkill, but I’m happy.
I still make excuses not to read every day, but they are becoming less consistent. Reading has reopened my brain. It is more stimulated; I feel more creative and open to being creative. I feel calmer because reading is a pastime that I appreciate: I can wait for anybody or anything for almost any amount of time if I have a good book to read. I am also becoming a little more comfortable with who I am and those activities that make me happy. As a twenty-something, I felt like I should be out, always doing something physically active or socially engaging. Books have helped me settle with the idea that it is really okay to love reading, to like disengaging from the world to imagine and to learn.
Overall, reading will help me be more comfortable in my own skin and happy with sharing my imagination and creativity because I trust them more. It is going to make me a stronger thinker, a better writer, a more open innovator.
If you have left something behind because life happened and you had to grow up, don’t be afraid of picking it up again because of what the world may think (or what you think the world will think – because if we’re honest, it’s probably just us alone – not the world – that’s thinking it after all). Allow yourself to settle back into it, and see where it takes you. You’ll probably end up more comfortable and a bit amazed at who it opens you up to be.