When I first meet someone and our conversation turns toward hobbies, reading is inevitably one of the first things I mention. This is usually followed by writing. I’ve said it so many times that it has become second nature; the words roll off my tongue as easily as my own name. There are usually follow-up questions, such as “What’s your favorite book?” and “What kind of things do you like to write?” My answer may change depending on what I’ve read recently or what mood I’m in, but the conversations are generally similar.
In one form or another, the English language has become such a large part of my life that I rarely look back on the reasons that I fell in love with reading and writing in the first place. As a senior English major, my days (and nights) are full of reading assignments and paper writing. The dusty stack of unopened books that I’ve accumulated over time sits in my bedroom, judging me silently, but I can only apologize and promise that I’ll read them eventually. Any writing ideas that pop into my brain must be tabled for the mythical free time I might discover in a dark corner somewhere.
Back when I was a carefree grade-schooler with too much free time on my hands, I discovered how much fun reading is. My first Nancy Drew book showed me what it was like to become completely immersed in a fictional world. The teenage sleuth’s strawberry-blonde hair and determined attitude were incredibly impressive to me, inspiring a slew of mystery stories both written and (poorly) illustrated by myself. As I grew up my taste in literature matured, although I was never ashamed to go back to my childhood favorites. Trips to the library with my mom and sister became a Saturday morning routine; I would emerge from the quiet building, triumphant, with arms full of books. My library card was a source of great power.
Some of the best days of my youth were passed within the confines of my bedroom. I would spend hours lost in a story, emerging only when I had to change my position on the bed or I noticed my stomach grumbling. During these marathon sessions I would laugh, I would cry, and, quite frequently, I would finish a book in the evening that I had started in the morning. Reading let me experience places and adventures that I would never have experienced otherwise. I grew to love some characters and hate others. I could escape the real world for a short while and feel emotions—happiness, anger, fear, sorrow—in ways I’d never felt them before. Eventually, I began to appreciate writing for its beauty, often pausing a moment just to enjoy the way an author strung words together to create art. In a similar way, I found a passion for writing. The more I wrote, the more I realized that nothing had ever allowed me to express myself the way that writing was, and is, able to. I learned to admire authors not just for the stories they tell, but for the massive amount of effort and creativity that goes into writing well.
Studying English is not always fun. A whole semester of 18th century English literature can be a bit of a snooze fest. Staying up late and alternating between typing and crying to get a paper finished will not be one of my fondest memories of college. Lugging around giant anthologies may have given me permanent back damage. Despite these things, though, I know that there is nowhere I’d rather be. My choices are driven by the foundation of love I have for the written word, and as long as I find joy in the letters on a page, they will continue to be.