In elementary school, I remember dragging my parents to our local Border’s bookstore (before it met its unfortunate fate of liquidation in 2011) and begging them to buy me new books. I remember roaming through the aisles of paper heaven, and only wishing I had enough time to enjoy all the treasures they held.
By the fourth grade, I had finished six books in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and was prepared to go to hell and back to get my parents to buy me the seventh and final book. After they had finally given in and folded their cards, I skipped home triumphantly with a brand new book in my hand. In the days to follow, I locked myself in my room after school with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, water bottles and granola bars (getting up only to use the bathroom), ready to mourn the death of my favorite series.
That was what reading was like for me.
Throughout middle school, I still kept books as a priority. But after entering high school, I found it becoming more and more difficult to pick up a book as a leisure activity. I still read for fun during my freshman and sophomore year, but that became harder to do as I entered junior year. Homework, SATs, and AP exams ended up at the top of my “To-Do List” and there just wasn’t room for the books I wanted to read. Reading for pleasure just wasn’t a priority anymore.
I had lost a lot of things during my high school career: my pencil pouch, my ID card, my binder at one point (it was later rediscovered with all its content still there, but that wasn’t really a surprise since binders aren’t really fun to steal unless you want to do homework), etc. But one of the saddest and most valuable things I’ve ever lost was my love for reading.
Until recently, I had forgotten what it was like to read just for the heck of it; not to annotate, mark up, or flip through to prepare for an in-class essay on the material the next day- but to read a book solely for my own enjoyment. And perhaps the most tragic part was that I never even noticed I missed reading until I looked at my book stand one day and saw the dust gathered on top of my “to read” pile.
At the recommendation of Captain Lindsey, I picked up Left Neglected by Lisa Genova and rediscovered my love for reading. Being absorbed into the book’s character development and storyline made me remember what I loved and missed most about reading: Finding new adventures and conflicts in the mind of someone else.
It’s not that I don’t love the life I have now, but being able to take on different personas is satisfying and exciting. I can jump from world to world, storyline to storyline, and character to character without putting myself in any physical danger (because I am a fragile child). I love living vicariously through these characters for brief periods of time because it allows me to step away from my conflicts in the real world; it let’s me relax and take a breather when my real life gets too difficult and tumultuous.
Sometimes school can become overwhelming, especially when homework and test preps seem to come before friends and hobbies, but remembering to enjoy yourself with little leisure activities is a good way to allow some breathing room in your life.
It’s important to balance out your priorities so that high school doesn’t end up composed entirely of stress and pressure. And what better way to bring some light into those dark times than doing what you love, whatever that may be?