It was the year 1998. I was in middle school in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. One of the requirements at this school for all students was to read a book during set periods throughout the school year. At this time, my schizophrenia was in its early stages, and the negative symptoms were taking over my way of being to a high degree. I wasn’t brushing my teeth, I was increasingly socially withdrawing myself, and all emotion had drained from my face. I never kept up with their book reading quota because of my struggles.
There were times, however, where I had bursts of mental energy. During one of these bursts, I managed to finish two books completely. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and Holes by Louis Sachar. I enjoyed the stories and was immeasurably proud of myself for finishing them. Completing a book at that time in my life was the equivalent of what would now be landing a $10k+ contract and completing it on-time with client praises. Part of this book reading curriculum was a test that served as a way to measure whether or not the students had read the book. I failed the test for both books. My teachers accused me of not reading these books.
Needless to say, this made any future book reading unpalatable. Why should I go through such monumental effort to reading a book if people are going to accuse me of not having read it? For the following 21 years, I read and completed a total of 8 books, 3 of which were completed within the last two months, 7 of which have been read since 2015 (when I started college). I could literally count on one hand how many books I read for almost 20 years.
So, what got me back to reading? The simple answer is a healthier mind and non-fiction books. As I became a healthier person, I began to view new information/knowledge as tools to better my present and future. It all started when I decided to take my app idea (Stridr) to fruition. A business advisor told me to read The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. Upon completing the book, I finally solidified in my mind that books are not an arbitrary task that will result in punishment once completed, but rather a tool to better yourself and society. Sure, the author makes money from the book they write, but to me, they are an act of altruism on the author’s part to help me better myself and the way I conduct my personal and professional business. If only schools could teach that lesson, instead of a lesson of punishment.
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