I miss the summers I used to spend reading Nancy Drew mysteries long past my bedtime; of sneaking peaks at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the dinner table, and of reading my way through the Little House on the Prairie series during long, breezy car rides.
Time moves differently when we are young. We can afford the reading marathons and all nighters. We can afford to escape for hours at a time into fictional worlds, and to fall in love with favorite characters (and to fall in love, in ways we don’t understand yet, with the characters we loath and despise, too). Reading 1800 pages every weekend used to be a stamp of pride. It meant you were a fast reader; that you were committed; that you were smart in the ways that 4th graders with impressive attention spans are smart. To read 1800 pages now is taken as a sign that you must certainly be neglecting several aspects of your life—the laundry, the family, the mold creeping its fuzzy-peculiar self up the shower curtain.
Except on very rare days, we lose the ability to read long and slow and uninterrupted. Day-to-day, we must carve a space for ourselves (or rather, many small spaces) somewhere between the morning commute and the nightcap. In a world where the 9-to-5 is a thing of the past (the 50 hour work week is the new 40, haven’t you heard?), we must compensate for the hours we spend pushing paper and babysitting our email accounts. We must slow down and find the calm within a storm of paper and ink.
In my own life, I must find a balance between the overtime I spend in my cubicle each week, the writing positions I nurture during off-hours, and the responsibilities I have toward my family, my boyfriend, my health and personal wellbeing. Other readers juggle all of these things, as well as children and mortgages, and yet we do it. We keep reading.
We read during those few quiet moments when the coffee is hot and the world is good-morning-grey. We sneak poems when our boss isn’t looking. We eat essays for lunch. We read because we need to. We read because we must.