Seth Wise

I constantly read in elementary school. I wouldn’t let anything, such as an earthquake drill, stop me. I would grab my book from the desk and begin to read as the sounds of the earthquake crackled over the intercom. Eventually, as my workload grew I stopped reading books for fun. I left the fantasy worlds and heroic tales I had immersed myself in for required textbooks and long-winded lectures.

During college, I realized that I was missing the reading that had been so compelling. I found that the Economics textbooks, Excel spreadsheets, and Netflix never brought the satisfaction I felt as an 11 year-old crouched beneath my desk, squinting at the dimly lit pages of The Tale of Despereaux. I began to read casually again but rarely allowed myself to get sucked into these imaginary worlds. I would pick books that were “boring” so I wouldn’t risk staying up late to read five more “last chapters” or skip an assignment to find out how Dumbledore would get Harry out of another fiasco. The times that I would let myself get into a book and read the last few hundred pages in just a couple of sittings were rare.

I often wonder how I would be different if I’d spent more time reading; would I be more intelligent, curious, or happier? Would I have delved deeper into fantasy worlds with heroes trying to save imaginative places? I thought about these questions when I tried to find “boring books.” I chose specific genres that I didn’t expect to capture my attention. In the midst of this process of reading for boredom I found a genre I had previously avoided: memoirs.

The first memoir I remember reading was Educated, by Tara Westover. For the first time in years I had the same craving I experienced as a child, however, instead of reading during an earthquake drill I was reading during lunch time at Taco Bell. I was so sucked into the world of rural Idaho, a town I imagined to be similar to the one my Grandparents grew up in, that I couldn’t put the book down. I craved to know how her story would end. What would drive her decisions and how she would change? After that I couldn’t read enough memoirs. Through my reading I travelled the globe with people trying to escape war. I’ve also walked the gravel roads of home-towns that haunt the nightmares of writers long after they’ve moved on.

I’ve found by reading others’ stories I am entertained and fulfilled like I was as a child. The power of these stories is so much more; they provide an understanding of other people, an inspiration and belief that I can be better myself, and often, a realization that it is ok to fall short and fail. Because of how these stories have changed my perspective I am always eager to hear someone else’s story.

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