As I finished The Dollmaker in the quiet of the apartment, I got to thinking yet again about why I am doing this. I was inspired because of a lack of meaning in my own life and with nothing worthwhile in store for myself. I was depressed and upset with myself for not being able to land one of the few teaching jobs in Michigan this past year. And while I interviewed in a lot of different places and was fortunate in some districts to be selected for an interview out of THOUSANDS of applicants; it was hard knowing that I still wasn't good enough.
It has been a rough road since then and in some moments the only thing that has really kept me going and kept me motivated is this; my writing and my reading. A lot of people don't understand how people who read so much can spend so much time doing so. They don't see how we can lose ourselves in another time and place and in other people's lives. For many, reading is just a chore and something they have to do. They get no enjoyment from opening pages and transporting themselves into another world.
I am sad for those people. Without books I am sure I would be feeling far worse about myself now than do. I am drawing comfort from the worlds I have been in, and gaining advice from my new mentors-writers like Arnow, Steinbeck, Forster, and Homer. They have become people that I am starting to become intimate with. They understand me on a far deeper level than those school administrators could ever possibly understand me.
Which brings me back to my beginning thoughts. Why am I doing this?
I am forcing myself through a list of 250 titles that I hopefully would have gotten to at some point in my life. Rather than wait, I am diving in head first and plowing through them one after the other. Starting this, I think I merely wanted to help myself. Reading these great works would inevitably help me become a better teacher and a better person. I would be learning from the greats and I would have a greater handle on literature as whole.
But it has become more than that. As I finished The Dollmaker I realized that I am learning far more than I thought I would, and that this experience is truly changing me. I have learned so much from these teachers. At times, I feel as though I am not expressing the depth of what I have read. Their words are speaking to me, sometimes across centuries and often across oceans. They have become my mentors and I feel as though through their work I am changing to become a much better person.
Everything they write about puts my life in perspective. Yes, things are rough right now. I am only working 15-16 hours a week making a little more than minimum wage. I don't own my own car, but am borrowing from my parents while we save up. We have some debt and Matt is still finishing school. At times, it seems like too much. I broke down in the car on the way to meet up with some friends Tuesday night because the weight of responsibility seemed like too much. Life catches up with you and sometimes you wonder, "how much more can I possibly handle?" Then life hands you another curve ball, like we got Wednesday when we found out that Matt's mom's new puppy was attacked and killed by a pit bull in front of her eyes and nothing could be done about it. Life throws you challenges and how you tackle them determines how things turn out.
Perhaps I am getting preachy, but again, as I finished The Dollmaker it all snapped into perspective. I remembered that my life could be worse and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I won't be unemployed forever. Eventually a school district will see me for the amazing teacher I know I am. Matt will finish school. We will pay off our debts. Justice will be found for Lacey needlessly being attacked by a vicious dog, and soon, these horrible feelings of despair will disappear. Life moves forward. And I have a wonderful and loving husband by my side who laughs with me and holds me when I need it. He supports everything I do and won't let me fail.
And I found all of that in the pages of a book. So when people say to me, "Why do you read so much?" or "Why are you doing this?" I can point to myself and say, "Reading has saved me."
Sure, it sounds completely crazy and obsessive, but I know it to be true. Words and stories are as much a part of my life as is Matt, or our cats, or our own memories. I take in these stories and they become a part of my own experience, my own history.
Perhaps the reason why I am doing this is so that I can hopefully inspire someone else to see reading and books as deeply as I do. They are not a hobby, or a waste of time, or something to turn to in boredom or when the power goes out; they are my friends, my family, and my mentors. Without them I would be lost.
And when I am done with this, I can add 250 more members to that list.
Sometimes all we need is a little reminder of what we're doing and where we are going to get our heads on straight again. And I think I am headed down the right path again.