Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reader's Epiphany

For this Weekly Geek installment, I'm asking you to think back to the moment when you realized "I am a reader!" The moment you felt that desire to read everything! The moment you knew you were different than most of those around you and that this reading thing was for real.

Well, I didn't really have an epiphany. There was no one moment when the light bulb went on and I knew that I would forever be "doomed" to be a reader. It happened over time, every year in my childhood giving me a moment or an event that brought me closer and closer to the realization that books would forever be my true love. And crazily enough, I couldn't even pinpoint which of these moments was the pivotal one or what specific book I was reading at a time that was more important than any other.
That's why I choose to compile those moments in my life,  pieces of the "Reader Inside Me" puzzle.

1. I was barely six years old and was sitting at a kitchen table with my dad. It was one of those rare moments when my dad was actually home (he was a sailor on transatlantic merchant ships and was usually gone from home for six to nine months at a time and then would come home for a two-week break) and I remember wanting to impress him with something very special. The only thing I knew how to do then was read but we didn't own any books, so I grabbed the newspaper he was reading (I know it was kinda rude in retrospective) and started reading headlines out loud.

Now, I know that reading at six is no special achievement nowadays since there are more and more people who start reading a lot earlier, but I still believe that for a kid who was never surrounded by books or by voracious readers, it was a big deal. Why? Because without any encouragement, any good example from adults, deep down I had an instinct to learn to read and read well. And I did. And I also made my father quite astounded and I think proud too.

2. I was a third grader, sitting in a classroom and having a private competition with my so-called best friend. Every student had to read a paragraph from a story we were working on and when it came my turn, I already knew I was a better reader than other students but I wanted to show the teacher that I was not only better but the best (meaning better than my biggest competitor, the girl sitting next to me and pretending to be my best friend).

Well, it didn't end pretty for either of us that day, because we both started accusing each other of interrupting and sabotaging our own reading time. I was actually very very mad when she would whisper to my ear how to read a certain word if I only paused for a moment (it never once occurred to me that she perhaps wanted to help). It seems so trivial now but then it was very important to me that I were the best reader.

3. Fast forward to middle school when our book market had all of a sudden been flooded with Harlequin romances (this was the beginning of democracy in my country and everything Western was being introduced to us). I could not get enough of those little hot books. I had one girlfriend and I purposely got her hooked on those romance books so I could read twice as many. I knew I didn't have enough pocket money to buy them all so I worked out a plan where we would buy two different titles each month and then switch them as soon as we were done (this way both of us could read four different Harlequin books).

I still remember this moment of pure joy, excitement and anticipation when I would enter the store and see a new batch of books had arrived.

4. And finally we are arriving at my high school years. The last two were the most crucial because that's when we started reading 'the big books'. I just couldn't get to the library fast enough to make sure I would get to read each one of the books from the required reading list first. It somehow didn't matter to me that no one else was in such a great hurry to read them anyway. All that mattered was that I had them in my possession and could start reading them as soon as the first break between classes started and then continue on on the bus ride home and if the novel was particularly captivating, disregard all the other homework, concentrate on reading until the book was finished, which meant a lot of times staying up until dawn and going to school with almost no sleep.

It never bothered me in the least that I was probably one of the biggest geeks ever, that I had no other life besides reading (no boyfriends, not a lot of going out or partying either). I was happy when I read and when high school ended I went on to study English philology because I knew there would be tons of reading to be done and I would not only read in my native Polish but now I could move on to read in English which I haven't stopped since...