I lost my will to read and explore. Reading became a waste of time and books took up unnecessary space. There was too much to do and reading was seen as a luxury. I became overwhelmed and anxiety came. So I started reading again. Here's how it happened:
Twisting and captivating, the written word never failed to attract me. Books brought me to places I thought impossible. It told me things so scandalous and unthinkable. I could sit for hours, not moving or speaking and completely absorbed.
At one point in my childhood, I was sure I wanted to be an author and write fantastic stories.
As a kid, I would save up my monthly allowance to buy books. I always capped the budget at RM30. Once a month, I would scour through bookstore shelves finding for the thickest and most interesting story to get the most out of my budget.
Then I would go home and immediately get lost in my fantasy world.
Until one day I didn’t.
The momentum stopped.
The stories got boring and repetitive. I slowly found reading exhausting. My back hurt from sitting for so long, I couldn’t find a comfortable position. I couldn’t snack and hold the book open at the same time. My eyes were dry too fast. Too many petty reasons.
Thing is, I didn’t even notice it coming. I can’t remember when I put the last book down and never picked it up again. The habit just phased out of my life.
I would walk into a bookstore and have a million reasons not to pick a book. It was too expensive, too thick, too thin, I could just read the summary online and the list of excuses went on.
A bookstore became a place to buy pretty notebooks and fancy stationery.
Finding the joy in reading again.
A while back, a close friend told me that I wasn’t reading like I used to. I got defensive and argued that I read online articles which are totally the same thing.
I was in denial that I had lost my joy for reading. As far as I could remember, I never stopped reading. What he said stung, though.
But I was lying to myself, right? Both books and online articles hold their own value but they aren’t the same.
It wasn’t until I was struggling to read simple Chinese characters from YMCA's Mandarin classes that I realised I was taking my ability to read English and Malay for granted. I took reading Facebook statuses, Instagram captions and Tweets as actual reading.
But they are in actuality a mindless drone and not mentally stimulating at all! It doesn’t make me think much or challenge my thoughts.
I read somewhere that being on social media was the main culprit in losing our focus. That was alarming because I’m a heavy user of social media. My habit recently has been to lay in bed for hours switching feverishly between social media apps.
Plus, I noticed that I was frequently forgetting what I wanted to do within seconds of just thinking it. I was getting disoriented and having messy thoughts. My actions were disorganized and I did things halfway.
However, even if this was the cause of my forgetfulness, I wasn’t ready to give up social media. Despite the mindless “viral” videos, I still needed to be on these apps for work and research. I need these apps to ninja my way through trending topics and read copywriting to analyse how companies launch their digital marketing campaigns. Stalker, much?
But I was determined to crushed that social media addiction and bring back reading!
So, I took a step back and started reflecting on what I was interested in at the moment. I was very certain that I no longer enjoyed fantasy novels or chick lits. That’s what Netflix dramas are for now. So those were the first things that got crossed off my list.
Then I thought about the people whom I enjoyed talking with the most. The ones who could challenge the way I think, rile me up and push me into doing better.
These special people enjoy talking about philosophy and human behaviour. Turns out, I find these conversations mentally stimulating. Without realising it, I was already hooked on the mechanics of human nature, how we interact and what drives us to strive harder in life. It was topics like the way of living and why we do what we do that got me curious.
I searched for books in this category. Google Books is amazing because it lets you preview a huge chunk of the book in eBook style before you decide to purchase it.
These past few years, I've been getting steadily overwhelmed and feeling left behind in many aspects of life. I was having a mild quarter life crisis. Everyone was getting something out of life: promotions, marriage, money but I was still feeling stuck with my life goals. I didn’t even have a goal!
I felt like I was dragging the people who cared about me down into my own misery.
But through reading, I found the answers I was searching for. Books like Ikigai and Goodbye, things brought a sense of calmness into the distress and unhappiness I was feeling. It taught me to find a purpose i felt comfortable with and to stay humble with each success.
I started feeling better. I slowly picked up and begin working on my own projects again.
Things finally moved. It was a slow progress but I finally managed to teach myself how to create a website from scratch. And then I created two more.
I moved to books on management and social interaction. These brought me into a world on how the workforce functions and how to create a balanced work life. It taught me when to give and when it was alright to be selfish.
Now, whenever I plonk myself on my bed to open any social media app, I ask myself if it's really necessary? If it's not, then I'll open an eBook to read.
It never occurred to me that now I was into reading the “boring” books my father reads. Reading brought back a sense of surety. That knowledge is already available but it is us who have to seek it.
Reading to learn created new possibilities. It feels like a world is opening up again. And now, I have to make up for lost time.
So philosophical, I learnt that whole paradox from Loong Seng.