The first time my parents left me alone with my older siblings for a day, I was proud to announce on their return that I’d read not just a bit but all of a book – and half of another. I didn’t get the impression that my parents were as impressed as I was, but I was perhaps unduly pleased, smug in both having spent the entire day doing what I wanted undisturbed and the sense that I’d devoured a book (of course, I was certain that it was a difficult task, reading a book in a day).
My family used to vacation at a cabin in the woods for a week or two every summer. Once I was allowed to pack for myself, I began bringing two suitcases: one of clothes and one of books.
Library trips became workouts.
My science-focused high school was likely astounded by the fact that they had a student who signed up for every class involving literature, sometimes forgoing study hall (nerd).
At a large college with a very strong English program, I was one of four students directly admitted into the English major, having essentially declared my future major when I was ten. Amid questions of “But what will you do with an English degree?” and “So you want to be a teacher, right?” I like to think I remained mysterious (though the questioners likely suspected I was dumbfounded, befuddled by their questions and my future).
I entered the “real world” and quickly realized that while everyone seemed to appreciate my English degree (it meant I knew how to think and problem solve, not that I’d been trained a specific task with stringent guidelines), I didn’t appreciate the jobs they were offering. So I metaphorically threw up my hands in despair and/or resignation and returned to school for a Master’s in English.
More of the same questions: “Why do you want to be a teacher?” (my response: I don’t) and “But really, what will you do with a graduate degree in English? Didn’t the first one get you nowhere?” (my response: … well, just assume it’s not pleasant).
Really, my truth is that I love literature. I am endlessly fascinated by books and other forms of media. It’s not only the reading itself – the escape, the fantasy, the un-reality – that matters, it’s what it means to me, to that guy reading on the bus, to the little girl who sneaks her flashlight under the covers, to the man who loses his bookmark instead of his remote in the couch. It’s what books do to us as a society and as individuals, how they shape us or open our minds.