If You Love(d) to Read…

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Before I could talk I knew how to read. Well, not really, but as a child I would sit and gaze at the strange symbols in the books my parents and grandparents read to me and listen intently to the stories they told. Eventually the day came when I learned that the symbols in the books were letters and that placing these letters together formed words. Then the words were organized together to form sentences and somehow these papers that I’d been staring at, littered with an array of dots and slashes, transformed into books.

It wasn’t until after I began reading that I realized how books transported you to places like Hogwarts or deserted islands or that you could love and mourn people from books who didn’t exist. I cried when Sirius Black was killed in Harry Potter and I felt happiness when Elizabeth Bennett finally married Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. In my blind youth I even read the entire Twilight trilogy and for a short time considered it quality literature. I lived with my nose in a book until something happened that seems to disrupt a lot of peoples’ love for reading: college.

It’s not the case that college discourages reading, or takes time away from reading. On the contrary, in college you read all the time. All. The. Time. Endless pages of academic journals and textbooks, and when you’re not just reading them, you’re taking notes on them. By the time our busy day is finished we want nothing but to close our eyes and sleep. Reading for fun rapidly falls to the back of our minds, and we lose much more than an enjoyable, relaxing hobby.

It wasn’t until winter break when I realized I was going to be traveling a great deal that I realized I should bring something on the plane for entertainment. When I bought a book at the airport, reading for fun seemed almost foreign to me. Fast-forward seven hours later and I was devouring each page, completely engulfed in the story. I had rediscovered my love for reading. In the following weeks after my trips I continued to set aside time to read before going to bed each night, trading in my hour of television or Twitter for reading a couple chapters of my book.

I read Gone Girl, mesmerized by the relationship between Nick, the clueless husband and Amy, the wife slash sociopath. I fell in love with Jay Gatsby and finally saw why The Great Gatsby was an American classic. I read Unbroken, the incredible true story of Louis Zamperini, an American Olympian, plane crash survivor and Japanese prisoner of war during World War II. Zamperini’s resolve and willpower while facing the worst odds made me reflect on my life, and I appreciated it more because of that. All the while, I couldn’t help but notice small changes that were taking place in the way I was reading, writing and thinking.

First, I noticed how much easier it was for me to read the things I didn’t enjoy. I was able to whiz through the 30 pages of assigned reading each night and retain twice the information that I used to. Even after reading the mind-numbingly boring assigned content, I still wanted to sit down and read my book. Second, I noticed how much more organized my thoughts were when doing homework or working. Before I began to read again, the entirety of my free time was spent staring at a television or scanning Instagram. My head, usually buzzing with 1,000 different thoughts was able to slow down and focus on the task at hand. In turn, this made my writing processes easier and finishing my homework slightly less stressful.

Finally, and most importantly, I noticed that my creativity skyrocketed. Anyone who spends a great deal of their time writing is familiar with writer’s block; the dreaded bout of anguish-filled nothing you feel when you’re trying to find something to write about. After regularly taking the time to read something I enjoyed each night, I realized how much easier it was for me to come up with ideas to write about. Words I had read in my books began to show up in the pieces I was writing and my descriptions of peoples, places and things became more colorful, lively and fluid. The best part: I enjoyed it.

When you’re not doing homework you’re in class and when you’re not in class you’re participating in student organizations or working a part-time job. In between all that, you’re sacrificing hours of sleep to maintain some semblance of a social life. If someday you find yourself, heaven forbid, bored, try sitting down and reading a book – a great book that you actually want to read. You’ll soon be asking yourself why you ever stopped in the first place.

Wisconsin native; Senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Film TV & Radio and Spanish. Yes I love beer and cheese.

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