I’ve started reading for the first time in a while, and by this, I mean carving out at least 30 minutes in my day to fully immerse myself in a book. As a child, I remember that my summers were filled with trips to my local library, where I ravenously read novel after novel, participating in reading circles, and often surprising the librarians with the sheer quantity of content I consumed during those three months. When I entered the building, it was as if I developed my own literary gravitational force, ripping books off the shelves just so they could find their way into my greedy, nerdy hands.
Like many things, with the rise of adulthood came the death of my hobbies. I’ve frittered away so much time trying to figure out exactly why I had so little interest and energy in the things that used to enthrall me for hours at a time, and it was then that I recognized an interesting correlation between free time and the “hustle culture” of today.
After graduating from Northwestern, I no longer spent my precious non-working hours on pastimes because I could not seem to stop intrusive, capitalistic thoughts entering my mind, such as:
“You’re reading a book? Make a TikTok reviewing and ranking it!”
or “You want to bake? Post a blog entry about the recipe!”
or “You are painting again? Open up an Etsy store and sell it!”
Everything that I had attempted to explore somehow became a possible venture or business opportunity, and it was exhausting. When I would finish working for the day, the last thing I wanted to do was more work. What happened to just having fun, keeping to myself, and relaxing?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve not done any of that in a while. In a world where it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to support oneself financially, it’s nigh impossible to avoid the pull towards the commodification of our individual joys.
Even my newsletter sometimes feels like I am giving myself permission to write for the purpose of advancing my brand identity. Although I love to compose my thoughts in this kind of format, I struggle to find the motivation to do so without it in some way being tied to my job.
So, here we are. Trying to manifest a new vision for my future as I begin treatment for metastatic cancer at 25, no longer seeking to grab on to each tiny foothold on the ladder towards perceived success at the expense of my health.
I will continue to work hard and well, but I will learn how to balance my life accordingly.
I will enjoy things without pressuring myself to participate in a larger narrative when the only story I ultimately need is the one that I write down in private.
Perhaps one day, when I feel right, then my hobbies will be a source of shared joy, but until then, I need to practice reading for just 30 minutes a day without any dinging, ringing, or beeping.