On balance and reading
Lately, the subject of balance in one’s reading life seems to be around every corner. Over the last few weeks, fellow bloggers have discussed how their reading has decreased because of a new child. Or how their reading balance has been thrown off by new hobbies. Or how a life change has shifted their reading priorities and made them focus on a new genre or subject.
This struggle to balance our reading lives with everything else is age-old, but one which I’ve also felt the pang of recently. This month, I went back to graduate school (hopefully for the last time!) and my time for pleasure reading took a dip. This always happens when I’m in school, but it chagrins me every time just the same. “There must be something to be done about this phenomenon!” I always say to myself right before doing nothing.
This year, however, with so many others experiencing the same thing, it made me think a bit more broadly. Sure, there are active things one can do to try and find reading balance. You could participate in a reading challenge to get “back on track.” Or you could designate a certain time in your day as reading time and never miss an appointment. Or you could join a book club for extra motivation. Or you could give yourself “homework,” assigning yourself a booklist and set schedule for finishing each tome.
But I’ve come to the conclusion that none of this is necessary. As I sat thinking about how I could “get better” about reading and coming up with lists and goals and strategies, I readily noted that ebb and flow is natural, even necessary, in life. Sometimes in life you’ll be going gangbusters and other times you’ll need to slow down so you don’t burn out — so why should one’s reading life be any different?
Because I love reading so much, I realized that I actually feel a lot of internal pressure to read. To read frequently and liberally and closely and passionately. I enjoy reading — to the surprise of no one, it’s probably my favorite thing to do — but that doesn’t mean I need to feel like I have to be doing it all the time/whenever possible/nonstop. In fact, it probably means the opposite: I love it so much that I should only partake if it brings me joy to do so.
And when exactly those moments are will necessarily change throughout my life. I’ll go to school and read less for fun. I’ll leave school and compensate for the lack by reading like a fiend. I’ll get a dog and be too tired to do anything let alone read. I’ll move to a place with an amazing library and read a ton as a result. And I’ll move again to somewhere without an amazing library and read less.
All of it is permissible, acceptable, and necessary. I’m never not going to love reading. I’m always going to struggle with balance (ah, the bookworm’s “having it all” conundrum!). But what I don’t have to struggle with is feeling like it’s crazy, or any more/less laudable, to read more or read less at any given moment. I’ll read exactly the right amount for that life-moment and revel in doing so. I LOVE READING. That’s not going anywhere. I’d just like to boot the pressure out of the equation.
I’ve been reading John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga for almost a year now. I love it and I’m enjoying it tremendously (and you should all so definitely read it!), which probably means I’m reading it at exactly the right life-moment. That moment just so happens to be lasting almost 12 months. And I’m done feeling anything less than psyched about this reading moment, however long it ends up being.