By Sarah Valdes • October 03, 2020•Writers in Residence, Issues
As a child I was your stereotypical bookworm. Buried behind large broad rimmed glasses, I could spend hours sprawled on the living room couch. Some of my fondest childhood memories include trips to the library and going up the long spiral staircase to the “grown-up” section while my father browsed the shelves. Seeing the long stacks of books felt both like home, and like endless rows of adventure to be explored. I learned how to navigate the card catalogue and was expected to retrieve whatever reference books I needed for a school project on my own. I can still probably get to the stacks of hardbacks on creating erupting volcanoes out of things you made in your laundry room, with my eyes closed. I am grateful for those family trips to the library and the constant presence of books in my home. Reading became a part of my identity early in life and despite exploring various career paths throughout childhood and early adulthood, I never had any doubts that I was going to study literature in college. Normal aspirations for a 13-year-old, right?
Second only to reading every chapter of the next Babysitter’s Club book as tween hovered next to a night light (adding to my optometrists’ yacht fund), my time in college reading until 2-3am was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Yes, I just wrote that sentence. But then, suddenly, I just stopped. Law school started. So why did a profession that was often suggested to children just by sheer virtue of their love of the literary, become the reason I stopped my literary romance?
When I started my career, I thought this would finally be the time I would get back to it. But I found myself harboring some negative biases that held me back. I needed to read something “literary”, something “important”, something “meaningful”. Don’t get me started on my resistance to e-readers. One term-paper on the virtues of traditional books over ereaders freshmen year of college, and I considered myself quite the expert on the topic. I also couldn’t be expected to sit still and read with all those racing thoughts in my mind, right. “Did I file discovery on that case?” “Wait, did I ever send out that subpoena for next week’s trial?” “What was that brilliant thought I had the other day while driving that I wanted to include my closing?” In retrospect, I was the poster child for lack of mindfulness. I attributed my busy schedule to the complete inability to sit down and catch up on a novel. I was simply too busy and too important. Boy was I wrong.
Gradually, I made room for a little more reading. I dared to read what I not-so-kindly had deemed “grocery store literature” for fun. And guess what? It was fun. I gave myself permission to indulge in something that wasn’t necessarily “productive” or “important”. Begrudgingly, I started using an e-reader (please don’t tell all the other literature majors who refused to embrace technology 10 years ago…I cannot lose my English major street cred), and (like everyone else had a decade earlier), found that it was just easier to keep reading. I could bring plenty of books with me during the commute, and as if the type A personality in me has not been apparent enough, I could monitor my progress with a simple percentage. I find myself thinking, “cool, I’m already 30% into the book, 50 is almost there, well then I might as well get to a 100 because that’s just a hop, skip, and a jump, away”. Whether this drive motivated by statistics would ever get me to finish that work-out remains to be seen. But for now, it has me knocking out reading challenges.
I started using Goodreads, an application that allows you to review books, and connect with other readers to see what they are reading. I also started using the digital library resources available through my local library. These were awesome! I found myself reading entire novels on my smart phone. (See, I really want my optometrist to have the yacht of his dreams!).
So why have I made the case for reading in my blog about connection. Because reading for pleasure allows you to develop that part of our lawyer brains we sometimes forget, empathy. We connect to communities, real and imagined, that we would have otherwise never been exposed to. We learn to look inward and reflect on our own worldview, actions, and perspective. For some of us, we connect to an early part of our identity, uninhibited by knowledge of the Rule Against Perpetuities. Join a book club, or network like Goodreads to interact with other readers. Challenge yourself to not read what you are used to. There are plenty of lists circulating now showcasing some wonderful diverse authors. Get out of your comfort zone, and for many that may mean putting down the business development book and picking up the romance novel. Whatever you choose, remember to be kind to yourself. A little goes a long way. And it’s ok for it to be fun. Happy reading!