By Subaita Rahman

My biggest motivation to start working in the library this summer and school year, besides the comfort of being able to listen to music and occasionally do my homework during work, was the hope that I would rediscover my love for books. 

Like many others’, my child and preteen years were full of incessant, almost fanatical reading, especially with series like Harry Potter (my favorite indie series) and Percy Jackson (which deserved better!). It came to the point where I adopted characters and their houses, traits, factions, etc. as literal personality traits, and anyone who knew me in sixth grade can attest to just how obnoxious that was, but also how weirdly passionate I was about devouring books and immediately looking towards the next one. 

Then came college reading. *cue audience groan*

To be perfectly clear, this article is being written by someone who will probably never be fully caught up on class reading; I am pretty much always flying by the seat of my pants in terms of understanding the dozens of pages of theses and academic papers I’m supposed to have read before lecture or discussion. You could say it’s kind of fun, kind of thrilling (it’s not). Nonetheless, this seems to be working for me to some extent, which is why I passively remain in this weird limbo of knowing there is always reading and catching up to be done but also lacking any sort of drive to finish it. I comfort myself by assuming that there are probably many of us out there, but I also wouldn’t impose this advice on anyone else, as I most likely will be in deep regret in six weeks. But I digress.

Unfortunately, this general difficulty of me to find motivation to read and understand these unnecessarily difficult academic papers has now become my primary (and only) reading experience now, which could not be more different than the passion I had growing up. A sense of guilt might come over when thinking about reading recreationally, because it’s assumed that if I were to read, it would be better for me to spend time reading the pieces I have to read first, i.e. my class assignments. What happens is I usually spend the exact same time I could’ve spent reading on another form of distraction that is probably much less fulfilling. And now, I’m used to having such a short attention span from these forms of distractions and media that even recreational books have been harder and harder for me to fully dive into again.

I’m here to say that we (okay, pretty much just I) have to accept two basic truths:

  1. There will always be something to do for your classes. 
  2. You’ll also always have something to distract you by (aka, free time being made whether you planned on it or not)

Frankly, I find that it’s okay to accept that some of your time will be wasted (which is also a topic for another time), and the sooner we accept that, the sooner we’ll be more comfortable with picking up a fun book than picking up our phone for “5 min of scrolling” that inevitably turns into 30. The book may be a more obvious diversion of attention from what’s productive (as I very much encourage not reading something academic unless it truly interests you), but I don’t need to sit here and tell you how helpful breaks in studying can be. Let’s at least make them breaks we can be happy to have taken. 

P.S. I did actually read more this summer, thank you for asking.

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