I am back! It was so heartwarming reading all of the responses to the first post.I was incredibly humbled by how much it resonated with so many people. Sharing personal stories can be quite daunting but I am glad that I shared mine as so many people were able to relate to it .Thank you to everyone who sent me personal messages.I must admit that the ‘I can’t wait for the part 2’ responses were what pushed my procrastinating self to start typing this.There is no greater accountability than not wanting to keep people hanging.
After my NYSC ,I started job hunting and eventually got my first graduate role. The realities of being an adult kicked in. Monday to Friday I would be mostly occupied with work and combating the manic Lagos traffic (anyone who lives or has ever lived in Lagos,Nigeria knows what I am talking about). The weekends were filled with a very full and active Lagos social life. From weddings, to funerals,to birthdays, to baby & bridal showers, lagosians sure do know how to party. At this point,I was still reading but remarkably less than I used to in my childhood and teen years. This era was also the beginning of social media(anyone remember My Space?)
It was also an era when the glossy magazine industry was at its peak in Nigeria.Magazines like Genevieve,TW,This Day style etc hit the news stands. I started buying a lot of these magazines and gradually found myself reading more magazines than books. I still read books but very minimally.
A couple of years passed and in this time, I got married and relocated to the UK. This was another adjustment phase.New country,routines,habits and culture. This phase though saw me having a bit more time on my hands at the weekend as I really didn’t know a lot of people.We lived in my sister in law’s old flat and I remember my joy at discovering her stash of books. This stash kept me busy and briefly rekindled my love for books. I discovered the joy of cuddling up and reading under a duvet in the winter.I also had a rather long commute to work and this time was converted into reading time.
My reading life was on a steady pace until the next major phase; I became a mum!Nothing truly prepares you for the change that accompanies a tiny screaming cute human dependent on you for everything.This event started my slow but steady descent back off the reading wagon. I went back to work after my first maternity leave and maybe read 1 or 2 books sporadically within that one year period.At this point Eastenders and Facebook had also become my escapist friends. Add in a dash of the fact that we could now get television series in box sets. After long days and finally getting the children into the bed,reading just didn’t seem like an easy or fun way to unwind.
If I wasn’t adulting i.e. being a mum & working,most of my downtime was mostly spent staring at a screen. I had my second baby and this cycle continued. I went through a spell of about 5 years where I couldn’t find it in me to start and finish a book. My husband even bought me a kindle at some point which eventually got consigned to the kitchen drawer purgatory that most unwanted items find themselves in.
Deep down in me though, I knew that I was missing an essential part of who I was.Year after year I would write ‘start reading again’ on my new year goals list (i don’t do new year resolutions anymore by the way). I also knew that that my creative side was dormant as the only time I got any mental stimulation was at work. The interesting thing was that through all of this,I was reading to and with my children almost every night.
It was very important to me that they were exposed to reading and books from a very young age. I would sit with them and we would journey through the Gruffalo and the very hungry caterpillar. It was an important part of our bedtime routine and it was a part of my day that I really looked forward to.
I knew that I really wanted to go back to reading but I sincerely thought that it wasn’t possible with the life that I currently had. These thoughts lead me to question a lot of other things.I realised that I had gradually began to let go of activities that were central to the core of who I was and everything I did outside of work centred around being a mum.Reading had always been the Avenue through which I opened my mind to countless possibilities out there in the world .
I knew that if wanted to grow in other other area and be a good role model to my children, I had to start reading again.The following things helped me go from barely reading one book in 5 years to almost 36 so far this year.
1. In 2016, I stopped writing down ‘Read more this year’. I changed it to ‘Read and finish one book every quarter’. It’s a very simple principle that applies to any other habit or goal you want to achieve. It has to be specific. I also need to caveat here that the number does not really even matter. For some people it might be ‘read and finish one book this year’ or ‘read 1 page a week’. It just has to be specific,measurable,attainable,realistic and time bound (I know SMART just had to make in it there😀).
2.One day I stumbled on a group in Facebook who were reading a book together and decided to join them. You would have someone come to present a chapter and we would all discuss it. Essentially it was a book club. Joining them spurred me on to start and finish the book so I could contribute to the discussions. And I have joined and been a part of some sort of book club ever since then. I even now host and co-ordinate two. So you want to keep up the reading habit,join a book club. You can reach out to me if you want to join one of the ones I host .This quote by James Clear in Atomic Habits explains it a bit better;”Remaining part of a group after achieving a goal is crucial to maintaining your habits. It’s friendship and community that embed a new identity and help behaviors last over the long run.”
3. I started viewing reading as a pleasurable activity and not a chore. I remembered what made me enjoy reading as a child and it was getting into stories. I love stories and words and i realised that in my head I had made ‘adult reading’ into this ‘serious’ thing that only helped my growth. I am a bit of a personal development junkie if I do say so myself so I thought I always had to be reading ‘serious’ books. I soon realised that reading had to be more than a way for me to ‘get better’. So I started reading fiction again. Reading fiction meant that a story could grip my attention for longer periods. This meant I could actually look forward to reading the same way I could look forward to watching a movie or TV series. The way I see this is that if you read what you love,you will eventually love to read. Don’t be confined to peoples expectations of what you ‘should’ be reading.
4. I made reading a part of my schedule. There are so many things that we would love to do but it just appears that we do not have the time. So what did i need to do? I made the time. Let’s face it, except one is retired (and even some retired people have a lot going on),life is always going to be busy. And I fully appreciate that seasons of life are different. But if it was something I needed to do, it had to make time for it. And that might mean other things had to go.For me it meant some of my evening TV time,some of my Sunday nap time etc. I also got in some reading on my commute into work. For some others it could be listening to audiobooks while driving to work, listening while running etc. If it’s important to you it has to get a slot on the schedule.
These are just a few of the things that helped me get back on the reading wagon. I also wrote a blog post back in 2019 titled Read more in 2020. That article also lists really easy tips to start reading more.I will be adding sharing the link on my social media platforms.
I do hope my story encourages someone who really wants to start or get back into reading again. It is possible and believe me when I say it is one of the most rewarding habits you can ever cultivate.
As usual thank you so much for reading and looking forward to hearing all of your plans for reading more in 2021. Compliments of the season and wish you a lovely week ahead.