One my biggest successes of this year was reigniting my passion for reading. Due to a lack of attention on my part, a busy schedule and a growing need to spend time apart, I neglected my old companion. Even though, over the years, the spark had dwindled, I always knew that I would eventually find my way back to my first love. Now that I have mended this relationship and reaped its benefits once again, I want to share my experience and guide those of you in the same boat.
***SPOILER ALERT*** (This article contains spoilers for: Matilda, Harry Potter, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and To Kill a Mockingbird)
My childhood friend, with the distinctive and somewhat enticing smell, was the only one who could help me forget my troubles by taking me to a whole other universe. From being amazed by Matilda’s special powers to feeling terrified by a talking ventriloquist’s dummy, I was the imaginary friend to so many characters. My eyes would fill with tears, especially when sadness pervaded the atmosphere and took centre stage. As Harry Potter buried Dobby, I found myself kneeling right by his side, mourning the death of this tremendously courageous elf. I would be engulfed by fear, reaching for Harry’s hand, when confronted by Voldemort. I also felt the pangs of heartache, as Gatsby relentlessly tried to win Daisy’s affections, and stood in complete shock when Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde were revealed to be the same person. And, needless to say, the ferocity of injustice struck me like lighting as Tom Robinson was wrongly convicted and consequently murdered.
Entering the library filled me with wonder and awe for so many years. Its warmth, magic and vastness would trigger a release of feel-good hormones. However, as the years went by and I developed new interests (in the form of crushes), its appeal crumbled as the dopamine started to fade. Eventually, reading became a chore. It went from being a friend to a cold relative who I would visit out of obligation. I still read but only because of course requirements and to further my personal and professional development. Although these books were extremely useful and informative, unfortunately they ended up zapping my once-shimmering enthusiasm for reading.
I must say that non-fiction books were not the only reason for the demise of this friendship – the rise of technology also shares the blame. Smartphones and streaming services have certainly added more flavouring to my life, but also cost me my attention span; rendering me even more impatient than I already was. The constant overload of information and the easy accessibility to films, tv shows, friends and resources has hindered my ability to rejoice in a slow burner and busk in the suspense being built. This constant distraction has unfortunately suffocated my need to just be still.
As this relationship was clearly on the rocks, I decided to remind myself of the good times. What did I appreciate about my old friend? How did they make me feel when things were great between us? Am I willing to put in the work to mend this friendship or am I just wasting my time? Have we grown apart? I found that books provided me with an escape and comfort, supported me in my solitude, broadened my horizons, helped me foster a sense of empathy and even alleviated my anxiety and depression.
Since the benefits of this friendship outweighed the costs, I chose to stay and do the work. This is how I did it:
- Limiting the time I spend on my phone
- Choosing the right genre/book for me
- Making the time to read
- Challenging myself to read 20 pages every day (of course concessions can be made, but having a goal to work towards can motivate you even more!)
- Not attempting to do too much too soon (so perhaps reading books that aren’t too long)
- Making it fun for myself (so eating my favourite snack, taking a bath or being in my pjs while reading)
- Going to bookshops and letting myself get lost in the euphoria of tales being told
I’m aware that reading isn’t for everybody, but, if like me, you’re wanting to find your way back to your old friend, pay them a visit. Their dependability certainly makes it easy to find them.