I have a confession. I went almost two months without reading anything.
Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I read, but I did it reluctantly. Reading is usually an essential part of my routine. It’s how I destress and deal with the world. It’s a significant predictor of my anxiety. Haven’t had time to read lately? You can bet my anxiety level is through the roof. It’s something I cancel plans for, schedule blocks of time for because I know it’s so critical to my self-care. If I’m not reading, you can bet I’m not in a good place.
There have certainly been times I have read less in the past. Hooked on a video game? Bingeing a new TV show? Busy social schedule? Traveling? There are absolutely times I read less, and I’m okay with it. There are other things I need to prioritize, and I know the books are waiting for me when reading is the THING I want to and need to do. (As a compulsive person, I have trouble letting myself do things besides read, and I’ve had to tell myself it’s okay to have other interests and hobbies! The world will not end!!)
But recently, I faced a reading slump. A slump unlike anything I’d ever faced before. One that seriously made me question whether I’d ever find real joy in reading again.
After spending a week trying to force myself to read, feeling panic every time a book couldn’t keep my interest, feeling anxious that I’d never want to read again, to the point where opening a book or comic sparked dread in my stomach, I stopped. I stopped reading almost entirely.
Yes, reading is a fundamental part of my identity, but it’s also an important part of my job. What would happen if I never wanted to read again, I wondered. Would I be the same person? It wasn’t just about not wanting to read a book. It was a fundamental, earth-shaking crisis of faith. If I wasn’t a reader, who was I?
The practical side of me wanted to make a list to slay this slump. To make a step-by-step checklist of things I could do to make sure that I would be reading again in a week or two. Rearranging my bookshelves was always something that got me excited about all the books I had to read (I live a scintillating life, I know), so I resolved to do it. But nothing worked. I couldn’t jump start my desire to read, no matter what I did.
So finally? I let go. I watched TV, played video games, socialized, cleaned my house, had Star Wars marathons. I reveled in doing all the things I normally put aside in order to focus on reading. And little by little, over time, I felt the desire to read trickle back. It happened in fits and starts at first, but it was there. After dropping onto my knees and thanking whatever higher power was responsible for me still being a reader, I cautiously picked up a comic here and there. I didn’t push it, but I read slowly, carefully, cautiously, savoring each panel, each page. And I remembered what it was I loved about reading.
Months later, I’m back on track. I’ve read more in the first two months of 2016 than I probably did for the last four of 2015. But I know I’ll never take my desire to read, or my identity as a reader, for granted again.