The past couple of months have been quite a whirlwind for me personally. A recent hospital stay and ensuing recovery gave me a lot of time to think and think I certainly did. I spent time reflecting on life and the decisions I had made up to this point. I thought of my career trajectory and where I wanted to go. Sometimes, the thinking got to be a lot and I needed a distraction from what was going on. I decided to turn to my piles of books to be read.
I have been an avid reader for a long time. Since I was a child. From a young age, I absorbed many books and was constantly reading. I grew up in the era of Book-It, a program that encouraged kids to read with the reward of Pizza-Hut personal pizzas. I’ve had a library card since I could sign up for one on my own. But, over the years, I started to read less and less.
I was reading very actively all the way through high school. I was reading a lot of science fiction as a kid. I rode the wave of Goosebumps and Animorphs books and continued into full novels, especially Star Trek novels. I could easily check out three or four novels at a time from the library and still have them returned a week before the due date. I was a voracious reader in my youth.
Perhaps the first signs of struggle came in my college years. I had a rocky time in college after being an all A student my entire life before entering higher education. When I got to college, I crashed and burned. I went to a prestigious engineering college in my home town and was destined to be an engineer or so I thought. I wasn’t prepared for college and reading textbooks was a miserable experience. I went to another school after not quite failing out of school, still doing poor enough to have my scholarships pulled. At my next school, it got even worse. I was bombarded by dry textbooks and one professor spent the entire lesson time reading directly from the book. I was in reading hell.
By the time I finally finished college at yet another school, I was mentally exhausted. Books really were not appealing to me. My last real stretch of very active reading was at an overnight job I held in 2010. There I read the entire Harry Potter series in about 2 weeks. I didn’t have much to do on those shifts unless an emergency came up.
As a new decade started, came the advent of streaming services. Netflix especially. I spent a lot of time binge watching my favorite series straight through. Shows such as MASH and all of the Star Treks that had aired to that point. I also went through a long period of unemployment. I left a job I had in 2011 and spent a year and a half unemployed. I was definitely filling my time with social media and with Netflix. Even as I found a stable job, the next several years continued my downward trend of reading and I had reached a point where I was reading fewer than ten books per year. Looking back at it now, I’m ashamed of myself. My younger self would be absolutely disappointed in me.
So, as I lay in a hospital bed just a short couple months ago, I don’t even know what possessed me to start reading. It was likely that at first, I only had my phone with me and I do not like watching videos on my iPhone screen even though I do have the larger screen model. I also don’t read more than articles on my phone. I have never been a fan of ebooks. What I needed in that moment, even if I didn’t realize it, was the comforting warmth of an old companion. So from there, I had some books brought to me from home and proceeded to read four books over the next two weeks I was in the hospital. I didn’t have much else to do, I was waiting for various factors to be resolved before I could be discharged.
Then I just kept reading. As I read more, I could feel my attention span getting stronger and could spend longer reading. I had slowed to a point when I did read that I could barely get through a chapter a day. In the hospital, I was probably getting to a point where I could read about a hundred or so pages a day. I recently had a day since coming home, I read over two hundred pages after finding one book and jumping right into another. As I read more, I felt my reading speed coming back. I’ve found myself reading at a pace I don’t think I’ve had since high school. It felt amazing. I have been thinking more and my mental focus feels a lot sharper. The brain is a muscle and reading is truly one of the best exercises for that muscle.
I’ve really found a renewed passion for reading. While I never quit reading, I certainly went through phases where I sometimes went months without turning pages. Now, I want to take in more. I’ve varied up my reading the past few years. I’ve thrown in a lot more non-fiction, including celebrity memoirs and books on various subjects related to my career and personal development. Of course, I still read Star Trek novels as well. That is not something that will change.
Getting back into the habit of reading and truly enjoying it has been a revitalizing experience. I feel like I’ve reconnected with an old friend. It was certainly awkward at first but now it’s like we haven’t missed a beat.
Being in the hospital and recovery really gives you time to reflect and think. As I was reading, I was definitely thinking. I just finished the book Read to Lead by Jeff Brown and Jesse Wisnewski. As I went through the book and read the authors experiences, I realized I was going through a lot of what they had experienced with reading. This was a book that I had on my shelf for a while and just now decided to read. Turns out I read it at the right time as the book really resonated with me and it got me thinking the whole time. I was able to verbalize to myself what was happening with me the past couple months and I realized just how much I loved reading again and how much I want to do it again. I have already finished seven books in the last two months and look forward to devouring more as the year marches on.
I encourage you all to dive into a book today. It’s well worth it.