The eternal struggle of books vs Netflix

I used to be a reader. There was a time when finishing books consumed me and little else seemed to matter. I was the kid who stayed up late, sneakily turning on my bed light to read when I should’ve been asleep. I couldn’t wait to get home from going anywhere because it meant I could read my book again.

When the last Harry Potter book was released, I read it in 24 hours. Literally. I took it with me to a baseball game. I stayed up all night reading. I read it in church. I couldn’t stop.

Now when people ask what I like to do, I draw a blank and feel like the most boring person in the world. I don’t think this is uncommon for my generation, though. We like to watch Netflix and engross ourselves in social media, but that makes us sound like the most boring people ever. I default to reading and taking walks, because I am the most boring person in the world and I actually don’t know what I like to do.

I’m not sure when I lost it, but I did. Maybe it’s all part of adulthood when you think through your answers too much and want to seem cool while impressing someone with the interesting hobbies you enjoy.

Deep down, we know Netflix and chill (minus the sexual connotations of said ‘chill’) is basically the defining hobby of our generation. The ability to access thousands of titles across multiple platforms has made us numb to doing anything else. It’s the easy answer when you want to relax, plus new shows are dropped every day and you want to be in the loop.

We watch until the black screen appears, judging us ever so gently by passive-aggressively asking if we’re still watching. Of course we are, but you’re just being nice. I want to meet the person who accidentally leaves Netflix on and that question is actually warranted.

Before Netflix and social media and really even easy Internet access, all I had were my books. They were my escape and comfort. My imagination grew arguably too large because of the constant immersion. When I wasn’t reading, I was likely creating some elaborate world for my toys to inhabit.

As I got older, I had more distractions and less time to read for endless hours. I didn’t want to stay up reading all night because I was tired. Sure, I still told everyone I was a reader and acted pompous like one, but I knew. Reading was replaced by screens and the easy escape versus the one I have to concentrate on.

Every so often I read a book that pulls me in and I can’t stop. I’m riveted and feel like I’m a part of the world and it just stays with me, causing my thoughts to obsess about the world long after I’ve left it. Too often I start a book, get distracted, put it down and then start a new one. My stack of half-finished books is almost as high as the ones I haven’t read. Oh yeah, I still buy books. A lot of them. Because I’m a reader, and I like books, remember? I like spending money so they can sit on my shelf and remind me that I don’t actually read anymore.

This year, I decided to set a goal of reading 50 books. That’s roughly one a week and kind of intimidating and I’m already behind but hey maybe I’ll pull a couple of quick reads to make up for it. I wanted to find the determination I used to have in reading and the dedication to finishing every story I start.

I mean, I read through the entire Twilight series because I didn’t leave a series unfinished. And it was garbage. It’s okay you like it, we all have things we like that are garbage, but it’s not good.

The bigger issue is in recent years I’ve allowed adulthood to rob me of a lot of things. My temper is shorter and my optimism is waning. I’ll tell you I’m a glass half full person, but I don’t feel that way. It’s rare I wake up excited for anything and mostly can’t wait to go to bed again.

Right now, it’s like I’m in the middle of one of those long rainbow, twisty slides. For years I’ve been letting it happen and winding down, hating the static shocks that remind me slides aren’t as pleasant as you think (seriously why do kids love them). Now I’ve stopped myself and I’m in limbo. I can climb up, but that’s terrifying. I’ll likely slip and lose progress and get all hot and sweaty, but what’s the alternative?

I don’t want to lose myself anymore than I have. Change is natural, but I’ve let the hallmarks of who I am fall because it’s easy to let it happen then fight in a world telling you to give in, this is adulthood, it doesn’t get better. Maybe that’s true, but I can get better.

Reading more books may seem like a strange start, but I know it’s the exact right place to reclaim part of who I used to be and find that girl again. The one who would rather stay up late reading about the adventures of fictional characters than spend hours in text conversations trying to find the exact reason of a social media post. Not that I don’t love sleuthing, but I need more.

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