Learn to find comfort in books again
The book’s words climbed onto my lap as I read through the slow, detailed cityscape in the pages before me. The characters laughed, cheered, and babbled excitedly as they clung to each other while skipping the brightly lit sidewalks. But their radiant joy was in contrast to my equally dark frustration as I could feel the stores of jealousy slowly begin to swirl around me. Resented by the exciting lives of the characters I was reading about, I put down my book and took out my laptop, once again consumed by the stress-inducing essay I had been trying to write for hours, far from as fun and happy as I could be.
I’ve been a major fan of books all my life: my parents always said that books and I are attached to our real and imagined buttocks. Every free moment I had, chirping tones from my reading list filled the air, and I was transported into the fantasy worlds crafted within novels. When I first entered high school, it was an uncommon academic stress escape method. The second I settled into a comfy reading bean bag in my room and flipped between the well-worn pages of paper, I could feel my stress evaporate.
However, books soon began to take on a different role in my life. The more I read, the more I came across characters who were living life to the fullest and achieving everything they wanted. On the other hand, I was doing my best to stay afloat. The transition to high school proved difficult, and I struggled to manage my stressful classes, sleep, methodologies, and social life without crashing or burning. The characters in my books would go to cafés after school, sip handmade drinks and work on their math homework with light music in the background. I’d come home from school exhausted, drank the strongest cup of coffee I could find before I barricaded myself in my room with my work and choked on the silence. The characters in my books would spend entire weekends outside, hiking or exploring the major cities they lived in. He ventured out over the weekend as well, all the way to the quiet study room at the back of the library.
I found it impossible to believe that the characters in the books I read were working only a few hours a day and going out with their friends every night while at the same time being Ivy League related. Thus, I began to hate books because they gave me false facts that I knew I would never be able to live up to. Sure, part of me understood that the books and their characters were fictional, but they were based somewhat on reality. If these characters, who were supposed to represent members of real societies, could do everything and I couldn’t, I thought that meant I was failing as a student and teen. I hated this idea. So I’m slowerAbandoned books, I don’t want to make myself worse than I already felt.
The only pages I read during my first year were those in my textbooks and in demand. The only fantasy worlds I entered were the unsettling dreams I had about doing well in my exams. But when the epidemic broke out, my life became completely monotonous and devoid of schoolwork. Unaccustomed to this sudden lack of pressure, I did my best to find ways to engage myself. However, my slow scrolling through TikTok and aimless walking around my house got stale so quickly, surprisingly, my interest in revisiting my source of comfort is starting to get excited. Cautiously, and to get rid of some of the great boredom I was feeling, I started reading again. I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t stop: again, I was reading all the time, every second I could. However, I didn’t get the familiar feel of FOMO that I had back in the first year when I read.
This time, after I had the opportunity to enjoy the books without the academic pressures and the constant feeling that they had deepened the sense of failure, I found myself thinking about them in a different way. Instead of viewing characters and their lives as unrealistic ideals I would never be able to fulfill, I began to learn from routines and at least try to create a better lifestyle for myself. It has succeeded. From the wonderful students I read about, I learned how to build a better work-life balance by starting school work in advance and making sure I set aside some time each week to spend time with those I was near so I could, too, do it all. From these city adventurers, I have learned to laugh at everything, to find excitement in every nook and cranny. And from the wonderful and burgeoning teenage novels, I felt and understood feelings and happiness on a deeper level.
With every book I read, I learn more about how I can shape my routine to be more appropriate to help me enjoy my academic workload. I’ve started turning to books for guidance on everything, whether it’s study tips, working through tough times or learning how to build a real, natural character. By finding snippets of reality within the fiction I’ve read, books are now my greatest guides.