Reading: my disappearing constant amid rapid change

How the immense academic stress has taken away my love for reading


Photo courtesy of Chris Lawton, Unsplash.

Dhruvika Randad, Staff Writer

There I lay in my bed, under a thick, pink comforter, with the stack of “Geronimo Stilton” and “Garfield” comic books, obtained from my weekly visit to the library. With my stack of books, a water bottle and a couple of munchies, I was ready for my reading marathon as I spent Saturday consumed in novels. I’m not sure when I fell in love with them, but my mom tells me they’ve been a constant in my life. “Geronimo Stilton,” “Rainbow Magic,” “Harry Potter” and “The Selection” are perhaps the four most iconic series of my childhood. The creative, relatable and honest characters only enhanced the series and made me fall in love.

My taste, however, has changed. After losing my father nearly six years ago, books became an even greater companion in my life: they were a remedy to my loneliness, a comedic friend throwing silly jokes and pick-up lines whenever I felt down and a BFF when I needed to witness some cliché romance to lift my single-pringle heart. It’s a weird relationship, but it’s one that has helped shape me into the person that I am today.

However, reality really did hit me early on the head, and I no longer frequently indulge in these fantasy novels anymore. Even so, I do owe thanks to them for being with me all these years because, as I changed, so did they. Fantasy novels soon became young adult novels, contemporary novels and coming-of-age novels. With that, I turned to John Green, whom I recently discovered was the same guy on Crash Course, Rainbow Rowell, Jojo Moyes, Jandy Nelson and so many more.

Books brought me comfort. The crisp spine and the scent of the book’s fresh pages as I gently flipped through them was like ASMR, but in real life. There’s something real and powerful about holding a book and running your fingers across the pages. It’s hard to imagine an entire world captured within those few hundred pages the same way we say a picture speaks a thousand words.

There’s something real and powerful about holding a book and running your fingers across the pages.

But then high school swung by and decided to pay a long visit. Four years, to be exact. With classes, homework, outside classes and limited family time as it is, there isn’t enough time in the day to finish what I need and further devote some time for myself. And when that’s the case, high school’s pet, the instant gratification monkey, pops along. For instant cravings of entertainment, I no longer have the energy to grab a book and read. Perhaps that’s because I have zero self-control when I get ready to read, but also because of the convenience of Youtube or Netflix. My energy to say, “No, I’m going to read this new book I got” has been taken away; my time is now invested in studying for what is considered “useful” and “more practical” for my life.

In a sense, this change isn’t completely terrible. I’m not doing too great in my math class, but at the same time, I’ve lost all direction of the little things that I once valued, wanted and needed. I’ve put more and more time and effort in school and every other aspect possible, except of my own life. And in all that, I neglected myself and took away the most important constant of my life as I tried to hold everything else together. I took the glue of my heart to stick the rest, but then my heart fell apart and it’s hard to put the pieces back together without the glue. Why? To please others. I cut this important aspect out of my life believing it no longer has worth, and turned away from that companion who carried me through the most difficult of times.

I took the glue of my heart to stick the rest, but then my heart fell apart and it’s hard to put the pieces back together without the glue. Why? To please others.

And my “fantastic” visitor only became more difficult to tame. School and its biggest sidekick,  Stress, threw me down a vortex of depression and I lost track of myself. What I was doing. What I felt. Who I was.

Stress loomed over my head and only heightened my anxiety, the current depression I was floating in and the loneliness that was fogging my sight. And what was its cause? Homework, classes, staying up beyond my capacity to finish learning. Amidst it all, I constantly battled trying to “be myself” and “not fake who I am.” It’s ironic when I think about it. I don’t know who I am anymore. That person who read endlessly without a care in the world, wore her emotions on her sleeve — she left with her father. That day. Nearly six years ago. Stress consumed me and I kept running and running to find answers to these problems, but when they’re never-ending, it was nearly impossible to find a place to stop and breathe.

And that hurts. I thought I’d keep evading this, pushing it to the farthest corner of my mind, but I wasn’t doing right by me. A lot of us don’t. Whether we enjoy knitting, reading, video games or playing outside, we should take a moment to enjoy life on our terms. Books are my forever friend, and I’d like to keep it that way. Not to neglect my other responsibilities, but sometimes, certain things don’t need to be as much of a priority as personal happiness. And that’s okay. It’ll take a while for me to accept it, but they’ll be there through it all, waiting for me at the finish line.