Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Reflecting on Reading and Life

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Reading. I did it a lot as a kid and for a long time, I felt like it was a defining characteristic of my personality. "I'm a reader." (Try to pretend I said that and actually sounded cool.)

Reading shows up in my short self-descriptions. It is listed as an interest on my Facebook profile. I purchased several books this year - more than the 9 that appear on the list in the Great Read-a-Thon. Why, then, is my reading list for 2012 so short? Why was I unable to make it through more than a handful of books?

At some point, I began reading for utility and forgot that you can read for pleasure. It's often easier to sit down at a computer and click a few links for instant gratification (Reddit, anyone?) rather than dig into a new novel, unsure if I will love the characters and the story. Reading is a substantial time commitment and I realized after looking at my pitiful list of books read this year that I'm afraid of that commitment. I'm afraid of digging in and starting something if I'm not sure that I'll like the outcome.  When I read, I'm trusting someone else (the author) to make sure the time I invest in reading is worth it. That's sort of backwards though, isn't it? It's up to me to make the most out of my reading experience. The author isn't responsible for the good or bad time I have reading their words.

My 2012 revelation is that my reading commitment phobia can be applied to many aspects of life. It's scary to love someone, for example. You invest a ridiculous amount of time and energy into love and you can't expect the object of your affection will do the same. You just have to trust that the experience, positive or negative, will be worth it. If it is worth it, fantastic - love triumphs. If it isn't, then you're theoretically supposed to take that failed attempt and love smarter next time. A failed love doesn't preclude you from loving again.

I feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish a book. I started something and completed it. There is a familiar beginning and an inevitable end. Only the middle is uncertain and that uncertainty is the heart of my fear.

If I had a resolution for 2013, it would be to live fearlessly. It would be to train myself to live for the middle and revel in its uncertainty. The beginning is the exciting place where I can jump off into something new and different, but it's just the first step. The actual experience comes from being in the thick of something and not knowing if you'll emerge as the same person you were before. I've been holding myself back by trying to cling to familiarity. Even as I do new things, I do them in an old way. How can I ever hope to grow if I stick to what I know?

To live fearlessly, I need to conquer my fears, so the first step is clear:

Read more.