Lesson Learned the Hard Way: Make Reading a Habit

La Liseuse (The Reader), 1776, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

La Liseuse (The Reader), 1776, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

One thing that I wish I had developed more as a child is the interest of reading. I was particularly an imaginative kid, full of daydreams about different worlds, changing personas, and composing conflicts and resolutions just for escape. Looking back, I find it as a wasted opportunity that, having that ability to create fantasy and wonder, I was not given a crutch to support that throbbing desire to dissolve into another world or cast a net to let my wandering mind be more directive. Large texts intimmidated me because at that time I really did not want to read textbooks assignments from school because I largely relied on the teacher’s explanations because of my preferred visual acquiring of knowledge. I always resorted to daydreaming instead of reading. Although I think that daydreaming is good, little did I know  back then that not habing the habit to read proved to be detremental to learning.

When I reached high school, I was submerged into an unfamiliar territory. I came from a school being a high achiever, mostly relying on teachers’ lectures and explanations, and eventually ended up as one of the top students of the batch. Now, at that high school, students were carefully selected for my high school and we were known to be a collection of smarts. I entered this revered science high school, mingling with people who were always on top of their games: know a lot, absorb information a lot, asked questions and raised hands for answers a lot, did homeworks and readings a lot. My lack of reading habit started to backfire. Everyone was raising their hands and excelling well in their studies. And I was lead into a dark path for relying most of the time upon teachers’ and classmates’ words of mouth. I lacked initiative, my mind did not understand complex information well despite the amazing visual memory I had. I could not connect cosequential and relating facts and not grasp reasoning well. I graduated high school, still not acquiring the habit to read and felt very miserably stupid.

College came, and the same attitude of still not wanting to read still persisted and consequences had became rough exponentially. It was the time in life when I was extremely conscious of my future, as it was a crucial transition from the educational phase to the decisive phase in future career directions, adding the fact that that future career would most likely be the source to feed myself. I had a hard time internally and officially branded myself as intelligent but really really stupid because of the same prevailing problems: lack of focus, inability to connect and build understandings among scattered yet related facts, and inexistent initiative to think.

Fast forward to two years before, I realized how I, joining a writers’ guild and befriending few artsy people, have surrounded myself with those who are interested with stories of escape and fantasy, same as I, but all of them seem to be faring well in their lives. I wondered why I possesed the same imaginative and inquisitive mind yet I don’t seem to grab information quickly.

It took a long time to observe everyone’s ways and like a glass crashing to the ground an internal breakthrough suddenly pinpointed the difference: everyone who I know reads. They read anything. It doesn’t matter if it is fiction or non-fiction. They read. It doesn’t matter if it is a textbook, a novel, or a self-help book. They read. But more than that… they read books with substance.

Aha! Then and there I vowed myself to read books as successively as possible. I challenged myself to read books of varying nature. I consulted self-help books, fiction, history, and also some academic textbooks and add to that a few internet and newspaper articles every now and then. Slowly did I noticed the changes that occured.

Reading taught me to communicate. The more I read, the more I can communicate. It is not just about the vocabulary that I hone everytime I read a new sentence and encounter a new word which can be looked up in a dictionary. It is not just about applying the same word in writing essays or in conversing with people. It is not just about to understand jargon and cultural context in varying situations. It is the full knowledge and confidence I gained that made me think highly of myself. Every time I read, I feel my brain getting heavier and I imagine the mechanics of my brain getting more complex.

Reading taught me to be imaginative. It taught me to construct from something as limiting and abstract as typed symbols into fantastical worlds and visions, it helped me imagine concepts and how one theory ties in with another theory, and most importantly, it helped me to feel and understand new situations and enter into a renewed kind of perspective. It taught me about each varying person’s socio-economic context. It to empathize and think. It taught me to think and be ideal. It taught me to translate those ideas into action and spark change.

Lastly, reading taught me to aspire for more. I have met individuals along my soul-searching and found out (and was intimidated by) how less I have learned through the years. I found out that reading creates a multi-faceted person because of the open-mindedness it cultivates. I found out that we can break tradition and norms in so many ways possible. I found out that it empowers you by knowing a wide range of possibilities ahead. It has, at least slowly as it is, changed me into a determined, active, and directive person.

I remember my professor back in college who encourages us to read if we feel we do not grasp any theoretical concept. At the time, I had shallow understanding of what she meant. As her advice resonates within my head I defenitely know now why she encouraged us so. Although I realized how lacking I am still when it comes to a multitude of information, knowledge, and skill, it is not too late for it gives me a drive to be a better person for now I have found out a secret weapon. It is through reading that our mind’s gears are turned, not matter how unoiled and rusty it may seem. Constant reading polishes the system of thinking, a manner which, if practiced perpetually, will make the gears act upon themselves, and, eventually, curiosity, initiative, creativity, and resolve will come after.

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Searching Treasure

My Weird Stuff

October 09, 2013

Upon reviewing my entries in my personal journal, I observe that I find it hard to make peace with myself. Every day I question the worth of the things I do and try to put them in a bigger perspective. It seems as if what I am, along with the habits and activities I do, is so far from being what I believe a human being with a special and meaningful contribution in this planet should be. I am in a constant battle to feel functional and significant.

Before, I always looked at others and figure out their shining qualities. Instead of being inspired, I always channeled my energy towards insecurity and unhealthy competition just to hurt myself in the process. This was not serving me well. That was the time I told myself, “Oops, stop it. I need change.” What’s left is to find new experience to pull myself out of this rut. From then on, I found out that the key is improving and fine tuning myself everyday to be what I am meant to be.

I had this limiting belief that I cannot do the things I really wanted. I was conditioned to be someone else out of expectations. For a very long while, I was very afraid to get out of this framework because I thought I’d let people down. Living out of somebody’s skeleton is so tiring and, little by little, I let go of the pressure and convinced myself that I can move towards what I believe is what I can be.  I had to reconnect to my core to listen to what I want to do in life. I joined many workshops that I never dared to join out of fear when I was younger.  It may be late in my age but this is better than achieving nothing of my own definition. From this continuous soul searching stemmed three wonderful realizations:

I obtained new knowledge. By that, I mean knowledge for more than the academic sense of it. I fare better in my communication skills now. I meet people that may be good references in the future for either personal or professional purposes. I have improved my patience, open-mindedness, work habits, and time management. I also removed the barriers that had been limiting me for years.

I have trusted myself more and more because of my stronger belief in my stretched out capabilities. As I have built new connections outside my own world, I feel better about myself. I could face the crowds better as opposed to the former shy person I was. I am more confident and devoted to the decisions I make and will still commit. Sometimes, however, I still have bouts of anger and insecurities but slowly I learn to manage them. I have something to build a good foundation on and this is something that must be developed.

In turn, I can inspire others. A few of the people I am friends with tell me how they aspire to do the things I do. However, I dare not feed my ego out of this greatness. I have a vision to inspire others on a larger scale. I have always felt that I have a very big debt to society. I am only one of the many who have been lucky to be born with opportunities and I feel responsible to share them to the less privileged. In the near future, I hope that I use my developed talents into good causes. I did not dig my treasures from hibernation to bury them once again.

To feel better, we must tap into our inner resources. Most of us do not have a clue what we are supposed to be. It only takes a little bit of digging. It is a treasure hunt which consists of exploring the unknown, climbing down into the uncomfortable, and clawing through the dirt. Once our talents are unearthed, we feel better and build a better sense of the self and our capabilities. Who knows, someone might be in need of inspiration. The newly improved you may be that one.

*Special thanks to TalkShop for challenging me to write this essay.