I used to read, a lot. My absolute favorite grade school memory is of reading day. We got to wear our pajamas and bring books and blankets and snacks to school and we could lay on the floor and read whatever books we chose. I often had to bring a back up book on those days because I'd finish the first one and have to move on to a second.
When my mom took me to the public library, I loved checking out a big blue library bag to carry all the books I had checked out. Sometimes, I would burn through three or four books in a week. I loved realistic fiction, biographies, fantasy, science fiction, and distopian literature. I decidedly did not love many of the books I read in my high school classes, but they absolutely shaped my understanding of life, the universe, and everything. So much so, that I went on to get a degree in English and taught to high schoolers for eight years. But now, three years out of being in the classroom, something has changed and I feel like it's a symptom, indicative of a larger problem. I just stopped reading.
I mean, that's probably not a fair assessment given that some people truly don't like reading and avoid it when possible, but I definitely don't devour books anymore. It takes me weeks or even months to get through a book now, when I do decide to pick one up. And, the only time I read with any urgency is right before my book club is about to meet. I currently have four books just waiting in the wings, gathering dust that I bought recently and an untold number purchased on vacations and set aside on the book shelf. This just didn't happen for a very large chunk of my life.
In college, there was a book store that would allow you to return your used books for store credit and buy new ones on an endless cycle. I can't even tell you how many times I traded in or how many authors I read. There was so much joy. That's the thing, I feel like the joy is gone. Every time I pick up a book now, I get snuggled in, read a few pages and think, I should be doing something. Aren't there dishes to wash, or world issues to fret over, or things to be doing? I don't feel like I deserve to read. Like I constantly have to be doing something to justify my existence and the really stupid part is that I binge watch Netflix at least a few days a week. It's like TV is a fun distraction, but I love books, on a deep, primal kind of level and I feel like I don't deserve to give myself the satisfaction. I'm depressed.
Writing, hashing it out here, I realize that having three surgeries in three years, leaving the classroom has me lost. When people asked me, what do you do? I was always able to say, I'm a teacher. And now I'm not. I realize now that I have been carrying around this weight, feeling like I somehow failed the universe. Like my entire identity and value was tied to being in a classroom and now, I'm just floating around without an anchor or a purpose. Like nothing I will ever do matters because I failed at this one, most important thing. And, now it's a mid sentence epiphany, I feel like I don't deserve books, because I abandoned my post in the classroom. I have no reason to read anymore. Because quitters don't deserve joy. Wow. That's a lot to unpack. My subconscious has really been kicking me around on that one and I'm simultaneously realizing that it's a load of crap.
I didn't quit, I evolved. I moved on when I knew that I wasn't happy or healthy staying in the same place anymore. I haven't failed the universe, I have gotten so wrapped up in emotionally kicking my own ass, that I've forgotten to stop and smell the books. I deserve joy, not as a reward for satisfying the universe or fulfilling some grand purpose, but because we all deserve joy. Yes, you. I'm fixing to make myself signs and hang them up all over my house. I DESERVE JOY. You should to. Everywhere. See it and say it every day. Do something you really, really love and when your brain starts yelling, bang on a tin can with a spoon if you have to, and yell back I. DESERVE. JOY. Because you do. And nothing you have or haven't done will ever change that.
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