Self Portrait

The Reader I Am

When the question, “What kind of reader are you?”, was posed, I suppose the answer is complex. As a believer of God, there’s one thing I always hear preached to the people, “We are all on our own, individual, different paths with God”. I think of reading the same way. Some of us find our love for it as young readers, some of us find it a little later in life, and some never do. All of which are okay. I mean, you don’t know what you’re missing if you’ve never had it for yourself. My relationship with reading was quite shaky when I was younger. I was stubborn and busy; there was too much to do and reading didn’t fit in the schedule very well. But, also like a relationship with Jesus, it takes time, energy, and thoughtfulness to gain an appreciation and understanding for a good book. I am just lucky to have learned all this before delving into my career. 

As a Junior in high school, I finally decided to take the time to appreciate literature. The books we were reading actually appealed to me and the range of content we were engaging with was captivating to me, specifically The Scarlet Letter being the first one to grab me. This isn’t to say amazing work wasn’t happening in my classes prior to this, but maybe I matured, maybe it was the respect I had for my teacher, maybe it was me figuring out my school/life balance, or maybe it was me trying to make sense of the world and what I was going to do in it after high school. Whatever it was, I’m thankful for it.  

I come from a group of friends who ask me to proofread their emails, so my “thinking” sometimes feels foreign. The way I navigate words and ideas always catch my peers off guard, so I feel comfort when I am surrounded by people in my classes  with similar working brains. People who understand what it’s like to sit down and watch a movie and subconsciously apply a lens to it and pick it apart enough to ruin the ending. I come from a group of friends who, for the most part, also don’t read or write for fun, so I feel like the odd ball when I separate myself for an afternoon of reading. I think everyone has their own quirks though, everyone has something they love that makes them feel like they don’t fit in, but that’s what makes us, us. Those differences are what draw us to each other. 

One minute I was falling asleep on my desk during Shakespeare, and the next I was watching his plays live at the Globe theatre in London, recognizing when the lines were recited wrong. Reading makes me happy, it teaches me, it makes me better, it helps me see the world from different perspectives. I can’t truly know what it is like to be a black woman in a white man’s world, but Zora N. Hurston’s,  Their Eyes Were Watching God, allowed me hear it from someone else and try to form an understanding of what life was like for female slaves at the time. Reading makes me think critically and thoroughly. It gives me numerous lenses to practice with. It allows me to escape from reality and transport into an alternate universe, time zone, and life. It makes putting down any mystery written by April Henry hard, and keeps my eyes glued to the pages of J.K. Rolwing’s, Harry Potter series. Reading acts as a day time activity or as a sleep remedy. Because I read, the value of words feel more powerful. The love I have for reading co-exists beautifully with my passion for teaching; and that passion for teaching might very well be the motivating force behind my love for reading. 

I feel like I can do so much with words. We, as people, can do so much with words and reading. It is such a privilege, a privilege we should take advantage of. As a reader, I have learned to explore this privilege and learn more about myself. I am a reader who is the worst person to ask for recommendations because I can’t ever remember what books I’ve read until someone mentions them. I’m not sure if that means I’ve read too much or if I just need to look at the cover of the book a few more times before reading it. I’m a reader who is terrible at spelling (I blame autocorrect for that), but is an absolute logophile. I am a reader of feel goods and mysteries. I will also never turn down a solid sob story, sad or funny. I buy books faster than I can read them, I rarely wear my glasses like I should, and my favorite spot to read is on a beach. I like prose, poetry, and everything in between. 

I have put an ample amount of energy into my studies throughout my 4 years in college, because of that, my reading, thinking, writing and critiquing has evolved. Last semester I was asked to identify the lens I read through, I stated my previous lenses were limited to environmental and Shakespearean. After looking at literary theory more closely, I have proudly widened my range of lenses. Let’s be clear, I most certainly used other lenses in the past, I just wasn’t aware of it and I hadn’t studied specific terminology or practiced the deep incorporation of these lenses explicitly. As I sifted through the many different theories, I found a liking towards deconstruction and post-colonialism, two lenses I would never have identified prior to my fall semester of senior year. The inner workings of these theories are applicable in not only literature, but our daily life as well. Deconstruction has so many layers that contribute to its process that I am continuously drawn to it. Post-Colonialism is a lens I feel is important for all people to be able to recognize because it works so closely with a multitude of other lenses. The time spent studying a range of theories helped me grow immensely.

Reading literature is differs from reading theory in ways that blend together. Theories force me to slow down and be analytical, and take the text deeper than what I see on the surface. That depth of reading that comes with theoretical lenses has made reading in literature become a more fluid and interactive experience. While reading Pride and Prejudice, I have found myself recognizing these lenses and theories much quicker than I did prior to studying them last semester. It is rewarding to watch the two become so cohesive.  With putting time and energy into literature, a sense of thoughtfulness and respect has formed and I have been able to see the evolutions of myself as a reader.

When I started my journey as an English major, I just wanted to create. I wasn’t sure what I meant by that, but I knew I wanted to channel my creativity in a productive way with guidance and advice from people who were far more advanced in the area. Critical essays were not something I was interested in, nor did I recognize the importance of applying those theories. Now, I have opened my eyes to a part of my future career as a teacher that I was so blind to before. Because I chose the path of pursuing English Literature, I am better for it. I will be able to be a greater asset to my students as they head on their own journey and will hopefully offer the guiding principles I have acquired of utilizing time, energy, and thoughtfulness in all that you do. Teaching has been my end goal since I entered college. I have taken every opportunity to connect my career path to my coursework in English Literature. Whether it be a fictional story for creative writing, or a reflection of myself at the end of a semester, I always seem to return to teaching and how the skills and tools I am currently learning will directly benefit me as an educator. My reading and my work has prepared me for my future career and I am reminded of that as I revisit my last 4 years of college and the time leading up to that path.

So what kind of reader am I now? A reader who has reflected back and regretted the years of reading I missed. A reader who has learned a tremendous amount from the peers within my field and a reader who doesn’t care what people think about me when I isolate myself away for hours on end to read. I am a reader who has a lot more reading to do. A reader who has seen so much progression as I’ve journeyed through my major and a reader who is too hard on herself. I tend to choose things that are challenging, so, you could say I took on this major, as an underdog, to make myself stretch a little further and work a little harder. What I have come to learn from myself as a reader, thinker, and writer, is that devoting time, energy, and thoughtfulness to whatever I do, will be the keys to my success and will guide me as I continue to venture further into my career and transformation of being educated and into the educator. Like my relationship with God, I am excited to continue on my journey with literature as it sets a foundation for my career and growth as an individual.