On (Not Love) Reading: A Personal Note

Siapa Tahu Kamu Mau Baca series is a fun and positive activity (I think). At least, I can write about literature and books, things I do attach for in everyday life (quite literally because transjakarta bus and commuter are the best places to read #fuckyeaheverydayreading). But recently I’m starting to raise a question about my reading habit. Several days ago I asked Bram and Day one similar question: “Am I an impulsive reader?” Instead of giving me an answer, they both asked back: “What do you feel about that?” I feel okay, I’m fine, feel great actually. I’m just worried if it leads me to a harmful thing I cannot think of right now.

For the past two years, I have read three times more than my usual amount and spent god-knows-how-many-hours. Damn, I used to be a slow reader. A VERY SLOW ONE. As long as I can remember, there was a year (2010) that I only read one book. Yes, the Holy Bible, because I was pretty ambitious to finish that thick, font-size-8, overwhelming-narrative-but-beautiful book. I say beautiful because Bible can be said as a literature, either we want to believe in it or not. (Well, a literary critic, Jack Miles, wrote God: A Biography; he analyzed the character development of God in Old Testament, and made him won the Pulitzer in 1996, so yeah). It took me one year; a whole one year! I was proud and awarded myself with Kindle (such a gift).

I used to be satisfied reading 24 books a year. Two books in a month, like …. hhhhh what an achievement for a lazy person. But now, I feel strange if I’m not finishing at least one book a week, and I think it is the decision to continue studying that I push myself harder to read more.

Before my departure to Manchester, I already resigned from my previous job three months in advance; three months of doing whatever I want, including intensively and extensively reading development and STS textbooks. It was a privilege indeed yet I can make sure of you I lost 90% of my savings of 2.5 years working because I just wanted to read. Impulsive, right. And this habit of impulsive reading continued.

During my days in Manchester, I always felt insufficient, thinking not capable enough to deal with academic reading and writing. The struggle was not an impostor syndrome, really. It was anxiety driving me to read, read, and read. I thought I didn’t know many things and I had the responsibility to know (sungguh congkak). When my first essay’s result was not good as I expected, I had a huge mental breakdown. My supervisor said: “Take it easy. You’re doing fine. I can give you some references you need, and if you need help on writing, there are many supports here.”

True, it was getting better. Yet I also found that actually, one of my most effective coping mechanisms to deal with breakdown, besides walking, is reading, the manifestation of the anxiety itself. I continued hoarding physical books (mostly textbooks) after finding out that the electronic version is not available (you know what I mean). It calmed me. I like searching for titles and authors I never heard of or creating mental-map of authors through bibliography. I like going through references part in a book, or reading preface/introduction in fiction because it usually gives me names and titles.

I remember when Pepe said a month ago: “Btw bosque ide dung buat blogmu: your reading experience/habit.” I replied, “ku tyda punya reading habit khusus kecuali merelakan tidur siang dan malamku yang berharga *crying emoji*” Because truly, I do not. There was one time when I felt really down, I picked up a book; then reading and crying in the dawn to release my sudden emotional excess. I try to reduce afternoon sleeping by reading because I often oversleep (more than 4 hours! That’s not nap). Instead of going out and travel (crowd and uncertain journey makes me more anxious, and again, basically I’m lazy), I spend more hours to read, even books that have nothing to do with my study and work. I feel a little more peace.

Another story is about my thesis assessment which I don’t get final result as I targeted. I cried. A lot. I blamed myself that I should not be studying or doing work in blimey academia anymore. When some people in social media posted their certificate degree with “Distinction” status on the paper, felt grateful, I was like …. hhhhhhh. What kind of toxic jealousy is this? It made me feel anxious, insecure, inferior.

But then I realize, Siapa Tahu Kamu Mau Baca helps me to get through those kind of dark days as I shift my attention to the stories I like, with their own flaws and beauties. And when I have huge doubt about Siapa Tahu and considering to not continuing it, the positive responses from you, the readers, and also from friends who also back to blog again (thank goodness!), re-ensure me; Siapa Tahu might also be a good thing for elses. (Syit, I almost cry writing this).

I sometimes think, maybe I read not because I want to but because I have to. I have to stay alive. I know, life is beyond academic books, or literature, or science and art in a more general sense. But it is the book that keeps me living (aside from my spiritual belief in Iesu-sama). Really, one must have a quotidian strategy to be resilient. In my case, mental resilience IS important. Whatever works, folks, whatever works.

Finally, I don’t want to over-romanticize reading and my own project because I believe everyone has their own personal motivations and intentions on why they want to pick up a book and read (walopun kadang cuman buat pamer klo dirinya intelektuil dan lebih pinter dari yang lain yowes gapapa #apologetik). And again, reading as both personal and public action has its structural problem as well. Yet one thing for sure, reading helps me listen to things outside of my own crappy, scumbag brain-head.

I don’t know where am I going with this, but I do hope my reading habit does not lead me (or other people around me) towards bad things in the future. And I have to close this bacot with a quote (lol) because I’m no good to end things it may represent my current state. *cough* *cough* As Harper Lee wrote in the voice of Scout, I never loved to read (duh I love afternoon sleeping), one does not love breathing.

2 thoughts on “On (Not Love) Reading: A Personal Note

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