When I was in high school I desperately wanted to seem well read. I don’t know why as it would not have improved my social standings at all. I had this idea that if I could quote Salinger or Fitzgerald I’d seem cool and interesting even though in reality I was a sloppy kid with unwashed hair.
An aspect of it was how desperate I was (and still am) for authority approval. Proving how smart and unique I was to the adults in the room gave me a thrill. I remember a teacher was recommending a book to a classmate of mine and then turned around and said “Maddison you’ve read that book right? What did you think?” I hadn’t read the book. But I couldn’t let that slip. I babbled on about how much I enjoyed it and the teacher smiled. I remember it so vividly.
I’ve tried rereading the classics today – or at least, the ones that were classic to me. I thumbed through my copy of Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ recently. In my youth I had underlined words or paragraphs in the text but without the context I couldn’t remember why they had been important to me. My eyes glazed over after the first page and I had to put the book away.
I always say I read so much more before I got a car. And while that had been true, this was also 2015 where the digitalisation of everything was still raw. Sure I had a smart phone but it wasn’t a piece of my DNA. One year I challenged myself to read 50 books. I finished my 70th on NYE.
I can’t read anymore. I can’t focus anymore. If I try watching a television show longer than 28 minutes my brain gets foggy. I need to have something in my hands to scroll and swipe with.
Which is why I’m trying to write again, here. I used to write so much more too. I told a friend that my childhood dream was to be a writer and they said that sounded fake – no kid wants to be a writer. They want to be pirates or firefighters or YouTube famous. But I just wanted to tell stories.