Reader

I’m Janssen, from Everyday Reading, also filling in here while Elizabeth lounges on the Mediterranean Sea with a frosty drink and a good book (that’s what she’s doing, right?). I love all of Elizabeth’s posts, but most recently I loved her post, Gifts, about her childhood of reading. I too love to read and at this point in my life, the title I most readily apply to myself is “reader,” (that and “crazed grad student who eats chips and salsa in the evenings and calls it dinner”). I read voraciously as a child, zipping through classics like The Phantom Tollbooth and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and total fluff like Sweet Valley Kids and at least 100 Boxcar children books (yes, they were all the same after a while. Who cares?).

And then, I started high school and got on the debate team and performed in a dozen school plays and took a few AP classes and, whoops, suddenly I hadn’t read a book for fun in several years. What’s more, I didn’t even particularly want to. Every now and again, I’d pick up something, but it was rare and I began to fear that my deep love of reading had been a childhood pastime, not a lifelong passion.

I went off to college and struggled a bit to find a major – I started in communications because it seemed like a good idea after some success in speech and debate. Then, I switched to history teaching because I’d always liked history, until I realized that, oh yeah, I hate teaching, so I dropped the teaching bit and stuck to the straight history.

I loved history and I did well in the major, but I certainly wasn’t a rising star, someone destined for Ph.D/publishing/lecturing greatness. I looked at my two younger sisters, one of whom is a talented artist and the other who is a seamstress, planning to go in to costume design. Why did they have specific special talents? I was good at school, sure, but where was my talent that I could wear to prom or hang on the wall? Where was my talent that let me know just what major was clearly the best, most obvious choice? And why didn’t that major lead to a career?

And then, during my personal angst over this issue, I borrowed a novel from Bart (my then boyfriend, now husband) and found myself lost again in a book. I carried it around with me for two days, reading at every possible moment. I neglected my homework and stayed up well into the night, reveling not only in the story but also in the rush of my returning love for reading.

I realized suddenly that it was okay that my hobby, my talent, my passion was less tangible than my sisters. It was fine that I couldn’t give away my talents as a birthday gift or a baby shower present. I could be happy being the reader next to the artist and the seamstress. If they worked with their hands, I could love working with my eyes and my imagination.

And once I stopped fighting it, once I let that love of reading back into my life and stopped pushing it away as just a childhood hobby, it’s taken me places I never could have guessed, like grad school, book blogging, and advance reader copies of books.

Like Elizabeth said in her post, my childhood reading was a gift, a glorious never-to-be-forgotten present, but, even better, it’d developed from a childhood obsession into a true grown-up love, one that I’m no longer afraid of losing and one I no longer dismiss as trivial.

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4 Responses

  1. This is a lovely post! I am also a voracious reader who stopped reading for a period of several years of my life, (in my case it was back-to-back babies and extreme sleep deprivation,) and when I was finally able to come back to it I felt such relief. Like finding a long, lost best friend and getting to spend the rest of your lives together.

    Thanks for the post – have a great day.

  2. great post janssen! 🙂

  3. Great post Janssen, I have to ask, what was the novel Bart let you borrow that got you back on track? I’m glad to hear you found your talent and passion.

  4. Great post, Janssen! When I wrote the acknowledgements to my Ph.D. disssertation, I thanked my parents for taking me to the library once a week the whole time I was growing up. I’m convinced that love of reading that I gained early on was instrumental in many of the professional and personal accomplishments that mean something today. We were, well, not poor, but down there on that bottom rung of middle class, and money was hard to come by. But I always had books. Still have books. They are one of my first rufuges when stress mounts.
    p.s. I would also like to know what novel set you back on track.

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