I Fought To Find Time For Reading Despite Full-Time Work And ‘Bad Adult Habits’
By Ahana Basu
I was that girl in school. Thick glasses, tightly-braided hair and a bag weighed down by extra reading material. I was that girl at home. Propped up on my elbow on my bed with a book open in front of me, one hand deep in a bag of chips. As I grew up, the glasses became more of an accessory than a necessity, and the braid gave way to shorter hair. But the books remained. When reading comes to you as easily as breathing, it’s difficult to fathom a life where you’re not reading.
Unfortunately, between adulthood, the digital age and full-time work, it was surprising how easily reading fell by the wayside. I still bought books, but they piled up, unread, often unseen. Work took a lot out of me. I worked odd hours, all of them spent glued to a computer. Once home, all I wanted was to collapse on my couch and watch mindless television. Reading demanded some degree of non-collapse, some change in posture and a somewhat alert brain. Not happening!
There was no epiphany or sudden psychological tremors that shook me back into reading. I went a good two years whining about how I had no time, but doing nothing about it. The change came simply when one day, I picked up an unread book and stuffed it into my bag before going to work. There was no guarantee I’d get time to read it, but… I lived on hope. I didn’t get time, as it turns out. The next day, I left for work an hour earlier. I swiped in, dumped my bag, took out my books and wallet and headed to a nearby café. An hour of reading and hot chocolate commenced.
It wasn’t easy, mind you. Irregular reading and a new cellphone (along with other ‘bad adult habits’) meant my attention span had dwindled considerably. I found myself skipping lines, getting impatient, looking at my phone every few minutes. But, there was a deep contentment in that hour and the subsequent hours. Much like treating yourself to a cupcake after months of kale and lettuce leaves. Since I adore cupcakes, I decided I had to keep up the practice.
I kept a book with me all the time. When buying handbags, I had to reject most of them because they couldn’t accommodate books. The ones I did buy fell into grave misshape after a month or so because I was stuffing them with reading material. At work, if I had a little time off, I tried as much as possible to get my butt off the chair, my face out of Facebook and step out for reading time. Luckily, I work in an area where new cafés and eateries are always springing up. My books and I went to check out all of them.
Sometimes, if I had skipped lunch and forgotten to bring a book with me, I’d actually go buy one so I could read while having a delayed, often highly un-nutritious lunch. I also tried to discipline myself not to buy new books till I’d read the entire pile of unread ones. Sadly, I failed miserably. So, the pile remains — in fact, it keeps getting bigger! But I’m making headway. I keep at least two books in my drawer at work. I try and read for at least ten minutes before I go to sleep. And I’ve learnt the rather strange lesson that, like all love affairs, reading seems to need constant practice. I still get impatient. I still check my phone between pages. But today, I’m just that girl who’s happier doing all of that with a book open in front of her.