In literature, I find a calmness that I’ve been missing for far too long.
As a child, my parents always tried to encourage me to read. It was both a way of keeping me quiet and an indirect means of education. I would read all different kinds of books, and family members would always buy me novels for my birthday and Christmas. However, despite enjoying reading, being an energetic kid meant getting started with that first page wasn’t always easy.
My dad devised a cunning plan to encourage me to read more. I was football mad, so he bought me tons of literature relating to the beautiful game. I powered through them, and he kept giving me more and more; books, magazines, you name it. These novels told stories of boys who went on to become professionals, and I imagined that I would be like them. Each book let me dream, and helped me forget about my own team - which lost almost every week. My first year English teacher was glad that I was reading a lot, but suggested that I delve into different genres. I immediately dismissed this notion. For me, football stories were the best kinds of stories.
But, as the world’s most popular sport became less important to me, I began to read various kinds of novels. I was captivated by the different worlds described in fantasies and admired the characters from coming-of-age books. These tales allowed me to forget about homework and the stresses of school life; the plots gave me something different to focus on once it had dawned on me that I wouldn’t make it as a professional footballer.
In my final school years I essentially stopped reading. My teachers encouraged me to pick up books, but I was of the opinion that literature was boring. Instead, I would spend hours each day on my phone, watching TV shows or on my Playstation. Almost all of my free time was spent looking at a screen. Books couldn’t grab my attention anymore. I preferred using social media because the likes that I got made me feel good about myself. I could never miss out on anything. I loved being overly-opinionated and craved the attention that I got for it. Watching coming-of-age films was far better than reading books of the same genre because I could see all of the parties, relationships, and teenage drama without the hard work of reading. Since I picked up reading again, I have sometimes struggled to fit it into my university schedule. Last year, picking up a book seemed like a waste of time or even a chore, because I spent most days reading articles for my course. I was too stressed out by all of the work that I had to do that I could rarely fit in time for myself. I thought to myself: “Why should I read a novel if I could be reading an academic article?”
However, I now have a better work-life balance and read literature almost every day. I use books as a break from coursework. The time away from the screen gives my eyes and brain a rest. Reading is now part of my bed-time routine; to wind down, I will pick up a book, sit in my dimly lit room and forget my worries. In that moment, the only things that exist are me and the words on the page.
Reading is now one of my favourite pastimes. It has helped me to reduce my screen time, social media use and binge-watching of TV. Thanks to reading more, I have found that I really enjoy creative writing. I hope to write a novel myself one day. Bringing books back into my life has helped to make me a happier person.