You might not believe it, but the one thing that has prevented me from picking up a novel for the past four years is the one thing that promised to give me a higher education: university.
While university has benefitted me in countless ways, it has also done me this great disservice.
Being a student is hard work. You must stay on top of all your classes, preparing for tests, exams, essays, while also doing additional readings in order to be able to actively participate in said classes.
For some, you may even have to work part time jobs during your “free time” just to be able to afford them. So when you do have some down time (the time you physically had to cram into your schedule just to get a break), you don’t want to do anything even remotely thought provoking. Instead, you dull it down, switch your brain onto auto-pilot, and try to catch up on all of the Sons of Anarchy and How to Get Away With Murder episodes you’ve missed in the last few weeks.
Reading, for me, was definitely put on the back burner. Even thinking about reading a book for pleasure made me feel guilty about all of the course readings I wasn’t doing, because if I’m going to read anything, it should be something I’m getting graded on, right?
But now, being done with school and free of this obligation, books and I are finally reunited, and I couldn’t be happier. There’s something special about reading for pleasure. It’s something I should have made more time for in the past four years. And now, as I’ve been reading anything and everything I can get my hands on, I realize just how many benefits there are in reading that I’ve been missing out on all this time. How much better I feel, how much smarter I am simply by bringing this practice back into my life, and here’s why all of you should be doing the same:
- Reading keeps your brain sharp.
Having read a number of studies on the matter, a lifetime of reading is proven to keep your brain in shape once you reach the golden years, gracing you with slower memory decline. In fact, such studies have proven that having hobbies that incline you to use your brain, such as reading or puzzles, can actually stave off Alzheimer’s disease. A little reading every day goes a long way.
- Putting thoughts into words doing gets simple.
Ever find yourself not being able to articulate just exactly how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking? Knowing that you’re trying to get a point across, but have somehow lost the means and the vocabulary to do so? That’s what happens when you don’t exercise that part of your brain anymore: it starts to slack off. I mean, you’re not using it when you’re watching Jersey Shore re-runs, nor when you scroll through Facebook reading incomprehensible status updates. Once you start reading again, you’ll finally be able to find the words you seem to have lost during frosh week.
- Stress levels go way down.
Losing yourself in a good book can help alleviate any stress you may be feeling. No matter what’s going on in your work life, love life, home life, it all just slips away once you become preoccupied with someone else’s world for a few chapters. Also, as a de-stressor, reading before bed is a good way to wind down for the night, ensuring you get a good night’s sleep (unless you pick a page-turner, in which case, good luck).
Just because you’re reading for pleasure, and not straight from a textbook, doesn’t mean you won’t learn a thing or two from a great book. Things about falling in love, what it means to be happy, how to deal with the pressures and anxieties that come with living life, you’ll learn so many valuable life lessons through many dynamic characters that no classroom could ever be able to teach you properly. I promise, you will become a better, much savvier person if you just let yourself read!
Finally, and I think most importantly, reading gives you the priceless gift of imagination. Reading means delving into a world that, while shaped by the author, is completely envisioned by you. You have great control in this world, and hold immense power. It helps you to get creative and allows you to see the world through the eyes of many. Reading turns back the clock, and allows you to, once again, possess the magic you felt as a child. Remember that feeling? The wonder, the awe, the undefined? Anything is possible in this world of yours: all you have to do is imagine it.
Whether for ten minutes of your day, an hour, or even five, I implore you to make reading for pleasure a priority. Give yourself the privilege to be a resident of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, to hunt the white whale aboard the Pequod, fight alongside Napoleon, sail a raft with Huck and Jim, commit absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, ride a sad train with Anna Karenina, and stroll down Swann’s Way. Reading will give you a different perspective of the world and of yourself. Just pick one up – you’ll be a greater person because of it.Rory Gilmore’s Graduation Speech