I’ve been doing a whole lot of soul searching the last two years. Unwinding my mental and physical health issues, as well as addressing much of my legacy baggage that has fallen out of the closet during the election of 2016, and continued to pile on the floor throughout 2017. I’m working my way through a lifetime of delusion, denial, and pushing things into my closet, resulting in this moment where I really couldn’t ignore things any longer and have decided to roll up sleeves and get to work on this backlog.
One seemingly minor aspect of my reality that I wanted to work amidst all this was the lack of an ability to regularly read books. It seems like a pretty minor luxury in my reality, but as I began unpacking why I’m not reading, it has become pretty clear that it is anything but a minor thing, and something that is the answer to a number of issues that negatively impact my reality. It wasn’t just about reading books, it is actually about my overall mental health, education, and awareness which are all cornerstones of my existence and well being. Not being able to read books regularly, was much more than just about the books, it was about a healthy and happy Kin–the further I got away from books, the more I found myself hopelessly lost, confused, and angry.
There has been a couple times in my life where I happily digested books on a regular basis, but since about 2003, I really haven’t been in a place where I could do this. I have every excuse in the book (pun intended). Too tired. Can’t afford books. Can’t focus. I read online. Work. Kids. Travel. I had a seemingly endless number of reasons why I couldn’t successfully sit down and finish a book. Every time I made up an excuse I knew that I was full of shit, but I had convinced myself that it just wasn’t a priority, and everything else was always more important. Reading books was a luxury I just couldn’t afford anymore in my busy, modern, Internet dominated adult life.
After moving to New York I have worked hard to read more. I’m still not as successful as I’d like to be, as work still seems to get in the way, but I’ve read more books since being here than I’ve read in the last decade. I try to start my day reading, and take breaks to read whenever I can throughout the day. I’m also reading physical books. While I have Kindle on my iPad, I just don’t have the same relationship with reading on my devices, as I have with reading books. Getting off the digital device(s) and reading an actual book has an entirely different impact on my reality. I still do a lot of reading on my computer (blog feeds, white papers, etc.), but it just isn’t the same–I need the book in my hand.
The more I read, the easier it is for me to read. My eyes and arms don’t get tired. I find myself less distracted, and able to read for a longer period of time. I find myself wanting to read more. My busy brain finds peace in reading, as well as thinking about what I’m reading, and what I have read, over the very noisy chatter of my API research, and the online world I’m exposed to via social media and the web. The best part is that my brain is also better off when I’m not reading, having a much larger effect on my mental health and well being, beyond just the time I’m sitting down enjoying a good book. I’m not even touching on the knowledge gained from reading, just the effects of being engaged with a book, instead of my computer, iPad, or iPhone.
I’m not a huge fiction fan. I enjoy mostly non-fiction. However, I do enjoy a good thriller or science fiction novel from time to time. While not all the books I’ve read this year have left their mark in this way, two books have profoundly changed my perspective this year. One of them was the History of White Trash by Nancy Isenberg, and the other was Bunk, by Kevin Young. I found both of these books enlightening when it came to our history, specifically regarding race, at a time where I really, really, needed some answers in this area. They are both long reads, but I barely even noticed, as I found myself connecting the dots in a way that helped me work through my rural baggage, and upbringing, in a way that merged well with my renewal for a love of reading in the era of Trump.
Reading a book is the answer for a lot of what troubles me. When I’ve had to much screen time–read a book! When I’m tired from work and want to turn on the TV–read a book. When I’m frustrated with the current state of things in this country–read a book. When I can’t shut down the voices in my head because I’m spinning out about something–read a book. I’m going to get my library card at the NY Public Library this week, and I am super excited for what that means. We are currently building an extensive collection of books in our new apartment, but I’m very happy to be living in a city where I can take advantage of such a treasured resource, and lose myself regularly in a good book.