For the last few years, I’ve been in the 100-books-a-year club. Getting through two books a week was no problem for me. Sometimes I’d even get through two in a week and knock another one out on a Saturday or Sunday. It was glorious. I was a full time grad student with a part-time job that let me sneak in a few pages on the regular.
Last fall, my life turned upside down in the best ways. I got a new full-time teaching job, bought a house, rescued a dog with trust issues. All these things take up a lot of time. I went from a job with little responsibility and no homework to a mind consuming, evening and weekend filled career. I left my parent’s house, where everything was taken care of and dinner was on the table every night, to owning my own home where dinner doesn’t magically show up on the table on its own and the lawn doesn’t cut itself. Planning and making dinner takes time. Cutting the lawn and trimming the bushes take half a Saturday. My dog, even though he wants to, doesn’t walk himself twice a day.
All of these new responsibilities have enriched my life in unforeseen ways. But they mean that my reading time has taken a big hit. I started to see the books pile up on the nightstand. My Quarterly box would come before I had read the books from the last one. My Kindle wish list went from one page to multiple pages. Books that I forgotten I preordered months ago arrived on my doorstep. I’ve been relying on audiobooks more and more to keep my count up.
Then the guilt spiral started. People on Twitter raving about new releases made me feel that twinge of remorse for the unbroken spines in my house. I started trying to hide the books I hadn’t read so they would stop staring at me. I’d put them in clothes drawers and the top of the closet. I’d hide them under the bed and put them between books I’d already read on the bookcase. The few on the nightstand I left as a constant shame reminder of how few books I was reading.
Finally, finally Christmas break came and I’d be able to put a dent in the piles. I carefully picked out four books that I’d eagerly been waiting to read. Two were books I had preordered months ago, and the other two had been on my list a long time. First, I had to finish my Christmas shopping. Well, actually I had to start it. That took the first two days of break. My family came in town and we had a cookie decorating day with the kids at my new house, and I had to bake two coffee cakes and a ham. That took another day. Then it was Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and before I knew it a week of break had flown by and I hadn’t read any of the four I picked.
Now it’s 2016, I’m only half way through one of my preorders (Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On) and it’s time for this guilt spiral to end. Feeling bad about having to slow down my reading isn’t making me pick up any more books. It only making me want to binge watch Netflix and tamp that guilt even further down.
My intentions in my reading need to change in 2016. And here’s how:
- Reading is not a contest with my past self. I’m not a bad person because I can’t read at the rate I used to. I’m not even a different person. Things have changed, and I’m reading at a slower pace. It’s not a competition, and I’m not losing.
- Reading is a treat. I have to remind myself of this in 2016. The guilt spiral has turned reading into something I have to do, a chore. I shouldn’t view it that way. Instead, it’s something I get to do. It’s a way to escape and spend my time constructively.
- Quality over quantity. Even though I can’t get in the numbers I used to, that doesn’t mean that what I’m choosing to read isn’t worthwhile. It’s still something that’s enriching my life and an activity I want to define me. I have other things that add to the definition of my life now too, homeowner, dog-rescuer, and teacher. Just because I’m not reading as much as I used to doesn’t mean I’m not a reader or a nerd or a bookworm.