About a month ago I posted my updated “Book-it” List of books I’d like to read before the year’s end (a literally impossible goal, but I’m okay with that; I’ve often remarked humorously that if I ever found a genie in a bottle who offered me just one wish, with the usual caveats of not asking for love or immortality, I’d simply have to wish to live until I’d read everything on my reading list and then, by default, I’d live forever because it’s always growing).
Consider this: HP Lovecraft and JRR Tolkien wrote stories that are blatantly, textually racist, but I’ll still cite “The Call of Cthulhu” as one of the greatest horror stories of all time and I’ll fawn over The Lord of the Rings whenever I’m given the chance.
Also consider this: I once attended a book signing for Orson Scott Card, of Ender’s Game fame, who coincidentally is also from North Carolina like I am, and when I asked for his signature on a notepad because I didn’t have the money to buy his new book, he gave me a free copy instead. Years later, as I learned his staunchly conservative views on homosexuality and how he actively promoted homophobic policies, I still happily bought and read his books.
And finally, this: I grew up with Harry Potter, and no matter how many transphobic comments JK Rowling posts on Twitter, I’ll still proudly wear a Golden Snitch tattooed on my forearm and never once question my love and adoration for her books.
But, uh, if I want to be anti-racist, why do I do any of this?
I love reading, and I love books, so much that I have the habit of trying to read too many books at the same time–the highest I’ve counted was over a dozen.
While this does allow me to indulge many interests simultaneously, it also prevents me from making significant progress toward finishing any of these books–which, in the grand scheme of things, I feel holds me back from achieving and experiencing everything I want to read.
So today I’m going to look back at my reading list for the year and try to map out my next steps–to possibly, hopefully, just maybe reach my goal of reading 40 books in 2020. (You know, because it’s 2020, and 20 + 20 = 40, I mean, that’s valid, right?)
I wanted an epiphany in 2019. I wanted to have my eyes opened through the pursuit of Story. Except I don’t feel it ever happened. Maybe if I had read all the books I’d wanted, I would have reached this point… or perhaps I was counting too much on vicarious living to have my own life awakened. There is a time for reflection, for looking back, and that introspection is especially important for self-discovery–but if we spend too much time looking behind us, we’ll miss what’s in front of us–or worse, walk into unseen pitfalls.
So now is the time to set aside the unfulfilled goals of the last year and forge forward, to open my own eyes and look toward the perfection vision of new year.
So. It’s the end of December. The end of the year. The time I’m obligated to write about my final progress on my annual goals. It’s always bittersweet. Bitter because I so rarely do it all, and sweet because the end of the year is a symbolic severing of the threads I wove last year and the promise of freedom (to let myself down in a different way).
It’s also bittersweet in another way, a brighter way: I’ve actually gone far further than at first I’d wished to, but the shortcomings I’ve encountered leave me questioning my own values–or rather, the sincerity of my commitment to these values.
It’s a long story. Or would you be more likely to keep reading if it’s a short story?
Being the official unofficial librarian has its perks. Last semester, I got to help decide which books to purchase with the $8000 or so allocated to new book purchases each year. And it was exhilarating. I also got to propose a new literary initiative to promote students’ love of reading–complete with school-provided incentives!
But being the official unofficial librarian also has its downsides. Like extra hours after school that are essentially unpaid. And also organizing our bookshelves.
Yesterday I looked back at how Story has driven me. Today, the first day of the new year, I look forward: This is not an outline of goals or resolutions, but a declaration of intent.
There are, I fear, still too many unanswered questions in my life, within my soul, and there has never been (in my lifetime, at least) a more apparent time of open conflict in our country than there is now: As the alchemists said, as above, so below, and I extend this idea to “as around, as within.” Perhaps I cannot quell the conflict around me, but if I can calm the questioning inside, perhaps that feeling will spread outward to others.
And if not, I’ll at least be better prepared to live my best life regardless of the world around me. Let it all fall into chaos: then I shall still stand tall and true.
There is, at our very deepest, a driving force for each of us. It fuels the beating of hearts, the breath filling our lungs, the meter of our feet and the cadence of our speech.
I suppose most people never know their driving force–it’s far too deep, you see, and in a world with an attention span hardly longer than a few seconds, I doubt most of us can hold our breaths long enough to dive so deep within to find it.