In the New Year, I vow to let go of “should have” and be kinder to myself as a reader.
At the beginning of 2020, no one could have anticipated that we’d be hit with nationwide shutdowns as a result of a pandemic or that we’d struggle to find toilet paper and paper towels!
If you were that person watching all those YouTube and TikTok videos on how to make toilet paper out of paper towels — because it’s all you could find in the store at the time — and you considered actually doing it (or, sadly, did do it): I see you.
I am you.
Amid trying to coordinate how many bottles of wine or beer to stock up on during the one trip to the liquor store you felt you could safely make, who among us really thought about reading? Or the list of “Most Anticipated” books we had in mind early in the year?
So, I figured, why not torture myself a little more and revisit the eager reader I was at the beginning of 2020 and compare her to who I am now?
Don’t get me wrong: Some reading got done during the endless hours spent sitting in the house. But I’m thinking more about all the hours we spent wondering when we’d be allowed around other people again; worrying about the mounting loss of life; and wondering if we’d ever really be safe.
Given all that, how often did my spiraling pandemic brain allow me to truly enjoy what I was reading? I have no answer.
This year, when I felt frustrated with a character or plot in a novel, it was hard to tell if that frustration came from the book in front of me or from my being unable to control our out-of-control world.
There were times when I put books down or read them too slowly or thought I hated them (yes, I said hated) without wanting to acknowledge that my frustration came not from what was on the page, but from what was happening around me: the massive loss, worry, fear, and struggle.
Above all, I felt guilty about having the privilege to be able to turn away, even for a moment, from the real world and focus on reading.
As 2020 comes to an end, the most important thing I can admit to myself is how much I needed to let go of expectations this year. The expectation that I would take advantage of all the extra time to read. The expectation that I should’ve read more. The expectation that I should have been able to better focus on what I was reading. And, finally, the expectation that the books I read would somehow help me “escape” the realities of the pandemic.
(I also admit to how many times I chose to watch Netflix instead of reading, and how I should’ve given myself the grace to enjoy and appreciate what my body or brain needed at the moment to push through all this shared grief.)
I’m not sure what 2021 will be like, but I do know what I’ll try to leave in 2020 is my lack of patience with myself and the unrealistic, unkind expectations I’ve had for myself as a reader.
Tell me: What has this year taught you about yourself as a reader?
Lupita Aquino — better known as Lupita Reads — is the co-founder and current lead of LIT on H St. Book Club at Solid State Books. She is a passionate reader active in both the local and online book community through her Instagram blog, @Lupita.Reads. You can also catch her tweeting about books over at @lupita_reads.