I Am a Reader, Until Suddenly, I Am Not

Reading on a kindle

I am a reader. I read every day, every night. My brain is full of stories or ordinary girls and courageous heroes and magic dragons and living, breathing words.

I devour book after book. Packing for holiday is a struggle. This is the day before e-readers, so I have to figure out how to fit enough books for a 5-week holiday into one suitcase. I relish the challenge.

Christmas comes and my stocking is a joyous mixture of chocolate and books. I read three before lunchtime on Boxing Day, greedily devouring the words alongside my Quality Street.

I am a reader.

Until suddenly I am not.

“I read three pages and am so overwhelmed by the prospect of reading a whole book that I give up.”

I am a student, weighed down with quadratic equations and drama rehearsals and Latin translations. I come home from school, and the thought of filling my brain with more words, more ideas, terrifies me. I watch television instead of reading.

I feel ashamed–but I know this is not forever. After all, I’m a reader at heart. One day – when the essays and A Levels and coursework and degree are all far behind me–I will read again. There will be space in my brain for other stories.

This is temporary. I am a reader.

Until, heartbreakingly, I am not.

I graduate university and the first thing I do is download 5 books onto my Kindle. I read three pages and am so overwhelmed by the prospect of reading a whole book that I give up. I close my Kindle and open Netflix.

As the months go on, I try again. I go on holiday and manage to read 9 books in 10 days. ‘This is it! I think. ‘I am BACK! I am a READER again’.

I return home, excited to devour story after story, but nothing can grab my attention. My attention is split across a hundred different things and tasks and goals, making it impossible to lose myself in a fantasy world.

I try non-fiction. Maybe what I need to get me out of this funk is something a bit more real, a bit more raw. My writing is full of social justice, so I try books that will inspire me. I read three chapters of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and I am captivated – but something stops me from continuing. Maybe it’s fear, that I’ll never write anything as powerful as this book. Maybe it’s exhaustion. Whatever it is, I give up again.

“I am no longer a reader. So who am I?”

I am no longer a reader.

So who am I?

Since I could read, I have identified as a reader. Even when I wasn’t actively reading, I still thought of myself as a reader. A bookworm. Someone who loved stories. Now that the thought of reading anything longer than a New York Time’s article fills me with dread, who am I?

Am I writer? Maybe. I write a lot. I yearn to write. I spend every free second thinking about writing. But I’m told that I can’t be a writer unless I read. After all, how can I expect to perfect my craft if I don’t study the greats that came before me? How can I be inspired when I shut out the things that should most inspire me?

If I’m not a reader, and I can’t be a writer–where does that leave me?

Truthfully? I don’t know. But I’m trying to figure it out–and I’m trying to remember that my hobbies and career are not what define me. I may not be a reader, but I am a person with thoughts and feelings and opinions and ideas. And maybe that is enough.

Hopefully, it is enough.

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