When I was younger, I would wrap myself in a blanket and open a book and not move for the next three hours. I could get utterly lost in the confines of a small bookstore and engage myself in the drama of fictional characters in a heartbeat. Stories were, ultimately, what made up my childhood.
When I grew older, I started to lose the long days of the summer, and the 8-10 PM blocks that had become my reading hours. I stole in snippets before school and after, forged on late nights with the latest installments of my favorite series, and wrote furiously when I had time. I wrote terrible stories, short stories, atrocious poems.
A little bit later on, it was not only the time that matter but the resolve to read and write stories. My friends bragged about how they hadn’t touched a novel since junior high, and with the accumulating schoolwork, teachers weakly pushed out book recommendations. I would rarely discuss books with others because there was so much more to discuss that seemed more “productive”, “relevant”, and “important”. I began to slowly slink away from my favorite fantasy novels, the turn-of-the-century books I’d so loved as a kid.
It’s sad, how I grew up with such a cultural impression that reading fiction was frivolous, nerdy, and irrelevant, something done by absentminded daydreamers. Novels aren’t just vocabulary clogs or forms of an old school pastime. Reading makes you feel for others and express empathy. If you love stories, it means you give a damn about people you’ve never met and situations you’ve never been in before. Reading and writing means you’re willing experience the lifetimes you create and encounter, instead of just living the one you’re given.