By Hannah Davis
Completing a degree in English Literature, ironically, led in part to my resentment of reading.
The general assumption when I tell someone about my degree is that I must happily spend my days reading and often leads people to repeat a similar statement: ‘oh, you must love reading then’. However, it feels like the secret of most literature students that, throughout the process of three years, they develop a grudge against reading. It becomes a chore. I can vouch for this: reading became something that caused stress and required effort rather than an escape from the world around me.
Obviously, I did not always feel this way about reading. Before the act became something that required analysis, it was an escape from my world and an adventure into distant lands. For a long time, I believed I could replace this feeling by watching Netflix for hours, or scrolling through my phone to pass the time. When reading became a chore that I had to force myself to do, I no longer saw it as the escape it had been.
In my final year at university, and the most inconvenient time possible, I have challenged myself to learn to appreciate reading again: to fall back in love with books and not just view them as ‘work’. It has been a slow process, attempting to fit in reading for my degree as well as reading for enjoyment. I began by reading 10 pages before going to sleep until it became 10 pages whenever I had time. Slowly, I am beginning to become infatuated with books again, to not want to put them down. There is a pleasure from reading again, something incredibly valuable. The returning appreciation for reading reminded me of the love I had for it as a child. I would wake up as early as I possibly could to find out what would happen next in whatever I was reading at that time. On more than one occasion, it would make me late for school. Throughout the day I would anticipate what would happen next and eagerly await the next time I could get my hands on the book.
I know I’ll never reach that level of childlike enthusiasm again, but I finally feel excited about
reading again after many years of begrudging it. The ability to focus on one thing is not
something I often find myself capable of anymore. Like many people, I’m always focusing on
what I have to do next, whether it’s what work do I have to do, or what I’ll have for dinner or if I can afford to buy myself some new piece of clothing which I don’t really need. Through the
process of reading, I can focus on one thing and forget about worries for an hour or so.
I neglected reading for enjoyment for a long time because I believed that it was only work or
something to cause me stress. More and more often I believe people do not allow themselves hobbies as they feel that everything they do should be related to work, whether that be school or university or a job. I would encourage the act of reading for fun because it allows me to do something which I enjoy that is not polluted by the worries of life. This doesn’t always have to be about reading, but the value of taking time to do something you appreciate and don’t feel guilty about is something I think we should all prioritise more.
Photo credit: https://www.bookbub.com/blog/organized-bookshelves-for-new-years-resolutions