Reading Should Never Be A Chore

Reading Should Never Be A Chore

I became more concerned with fleeting soundbites and less excited by everlasting words on a page.

Some time between discovering Netflix and receiving my first high school reading assignment, I stopped reading books. My priorities shifted from finding out the fate of Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin after their encounter with the Man with Red Eyes, to finding out what happened to Agent Scully after she was abducted by aliens.

I became more concerned with fleeting soundbites and less excited by everlasting words on a page.

I know I’m not the only person with this problem, and especially not the only millennial. Millennials grew up in the midst of a societal shift from page to screen, from VHS to DVD to streaming, from CD to MP3.

Now, there’s an incredible amount of information available, and we expect to get that information in five seconds or less. If we don’t, we check our wifi connection. So, if books can’t be read, processed and understood in five seconds, then what’s the point of reading them?

But it would be irresponsible to blame this problem solely on the habits of my own generation. It’s not really our fault, anyway.

Yes, we may have shorter attention spans, but that doesn’t mean we’re stupid – we just process information faster. When boring required reading in high school is added to the mix, we can throw reading for pleasure down the drain.

When I was a kid, I read books like my life depended on it. Nancy Drew was my hero, Esperanza Ortega was my inspiration and Charlie was my pen pal. I used bubble mint gum wrappers to mark my favorite quotes, and I mastered the art of dog-earing pages to the exact word I stopped reading at.

But my love for reading halted the moment I opened "Fahrenheit 451" the summer before my freshman year of high school. I’ve read the book a second time since then, and I can appreciate it in all of my adult-ness, but at 14 years old, I had no idea how I was supposed to interpret book burning and reading the Bible in its entirety on the train.

For the first time in my academic life, I felt dumb, unable to understand the material I was supposed to be understanding.

This got worse as I moved through required reading after required reading. Eventually, I just stopped reading books altogether. I wasn’t keeping up with "The Heart of Darkness" or "A Tale of Two Cities" in my World Literature class, and I barely opened "House of Mirth" or "Jane Eyre" in my AP English classes.

Somehow, I still managed to get good grades in those classes, but that’s beside the point.

My distaste for the books I was required to read in school translated into a distaste for books in general. At that point, books took too long to finish, weren’t as important as binging “The X-Files,” “Glee” or “Friends,” had words in them that I didn’t know and were difficult to fully understand.

But I can’t blame this problem on the high school system, either. The books they make us read really are important, anyway.

It was around this time in high school that I got my first job. I only worked about 12 hours a week, but my dramatic high school self-thought this excruciating schedule excused me from completing my required reading.

Instead, I scrolled through Tumblr or fell down Wikipedia rabbit holes. I was completely turned off by reading and turned on to my phone.

The phone issue hasn’t gone away. I wish I could read for pleasure more often, but I just don’t have time – this time for real. And that bothers me.

I’m 19 years old. I shouldn’t be scrambling to fit time into my schedule to read a chapter of a good book simply because I feel the need to watch 13 YouTube videos in a row or try to beat another level of "Best Fiends" in between homework assignments.

But I can’t blame this problem on having a job, a lot of homework and an iPhone, either. Everyone else has the same problems, anyway.

I don’t know if there is any real solution to this problem. Maybe we can all take a cue from Andrew Sullivan and put our phones away for a bit, and we might end up finishing the book that’s been sitting on the nightstand for three months. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to read every now and then. Baby steps.
Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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There Is So Much Value In The Humanities But People Overlook It

This is why we need the humanities.

“What are you going to do with that?” “Are you going to be a teacher?” “Where is the use in that?” These are the responses I always get whenever I tell people that I am a history major, and I am frankly sick of it. For too long, I and millions of students like me have been pigeonholed into schools and academia.

One day in my senior year, I met four history alumni of my university and none of them were teachers or professors. The business and STEM industries seem more focused on the question of “How?” whereas the liberal arts is more focused on “Why?” Business and STEM majors are both focused on objectives, results, and efficiency. Liberal arts majors are too but in different ways.

My junior year of college, I had a friend who worked as a teaching assistant for an engineering class. They were a senior majoring in English. I asked them what they did for the class as an English major, and they said they grade all the lab reports the students write. I then asked her how were they and without hesitation, they said, “THEY ARE HORRIBLE!” That is the basic reason why we need liberal arts because everybody needs to learn how to communicate their thoughts effectively on paper (and in speech).

Perhaps lawyers are the paradigms of liberal arts, because their careers are based around thinking in the abstract and communicating precisely and effectively while at the office, and the best part is that the options are virtually endless which type of law they want to practice: they can range from defending someone falsely accused of a crime to negotiating a treaty between nations. But we often neglect all the other practitioners of liberal arts outside the realm of law.

Let’s make one thing clear: liberal arts majors aren’t in it just for the money, which might sound like blasphemy in today’s society.

Instead, they’re in it for the passion. Rather than dedicating their studies--and their lives--to studying an unfulfilling subject and working an unfulfilling job, those who major in liberal arts dedicate their lives to something they want to live for: humanity.

The disregard and disposability people show for liberal arts tells me only one thing: we are fixated on improving our condition. Technology is constantly revolutionizing the ways communicate with each other, the ways we consume information, and the ways we conduct medical procedures. It only tells us that there is something wrong and needs to get fixed right now.

Liberal arts and humanities exist to remind us how far humans of come in advancing civilization, how much humans have achieved in improving their condition.

The humanities exist to preserve the human record. That’s why we have literature, history, philosophy, and theatre. The stories and ideas that each convey offer insights into the human condition so we can better understand ourselves and each other.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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7 Good Things About High School

Even though they weren't the best four years of my life, there were some good things about them.

I'm one of those people that will quickly tell you they hated high school. I love learning, but I really loathed my school. Even though I "hated" it, it wasn't all terrible. It wasn't all dancing at basketball games and singing "We're allll in this tooogether", but there were some things I appreciated about it.

1. You didn't feel rushed to have your whole life figured out.

My only focus in high school was graduating. There wasn't any pressure to figure out what I was doing with my life. My only focus was doing well in all of my classes so I could then go off to college.

2. Everyone was in the same boat as you.

Everyone in high school was the same, more or less. We were all just trying to deal with the unnecessary school rules, finding someone to sit with in class, and walking across the stage at the end of senior year. Everyone was working towards the same thing, getting their diploma. In college, everyone is working towards different degrees in different areas of study. There are also some people starting their families already.

3. Everyone had relatively the same schedule.

Of course everyone had different classes, but everything was all at the same time. The school day started at the same time everyday for everybody and ended at the same time everyday for everybody. (In college, you get to customize your schedule. You can even do all of your classes at night if you're not a morning person.)

4. You were able to see your friends, even for just a second.

Even if you didn't have any of the same classes as your friends, you could see them in between classes or even at lunch. Now everyone is away at different colleges, living in different states, or even studying abroad. You get to see all of their life updates on Facebook now.

5. You had these grand ideas of life after high school, before realizing they were actually harder to accomplish.

I was going to travel the world right after graduating and be this awesome adult. COMPLETELY untrue and never happened. For some reason, I had forgotten that you kind of need money to go places, and I have to go to school to get my degree. Obviously I'm hopefully going to be able to travel in the future, but not as an 18 year old with no money.

6. Your only goal was to graduate.

I wasn't concerned with what I was going to do with my life while I was in high school. I was 14 Freshman year, I didn't care about what my lifelong profession was going to be. It hit me as soon as college started that I need to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, because I kind of needed to work towards something. Now my current goal is getting my PhD in English and becoming a teacher, not just graduating.

7. You pretty much knew what you were doing.

You had Math 2nd period and lunch at 11:30, you had everything lined out for you. Now it's waking up every morning and decided whether or not you're actually going to go to class. Not only that, but also wondering if what you're doing is right. I started college as a Biology major, and now it's second semester and I'm an English major. Cleary I'm indecisive.

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