This is a long post. It's mostly for me, but I'm sharing it with you anyway. This is about what reading used to be to me, and how I reconnected with what I am now positive is one of the most important things in life, and a nod to the person to whom I feel I owe this return to the greatness of books.
When I think back to my childhood, reading was a huge part in my development. I started to read quite early, and was reading books to my classmates in kindergarten. I don't remember what grade level I was reading at, but I'm sure my mother would love to tell you. For as long as I can remember, my mother would halfheartedly chastise me for blowing through my double-digit stack of library books far before the due date. I'm sure I drove her up a wall begging to go back. Throughout elementary school, I remained significantly ahead of the reading curve, leading my teachers to assign me additional, more advanced, reading material, which I hungrily accepted. I also was a bit of a speed-reader, and was accused of lying to a teacher very early in my schooling about whether or not I had read a book. I dutifully (and a bit tearfully) recited the plot back to her until she was satisfied. This pattern continued. One of the sixth-grade teachers loaned me a copy of Steinbeck's The Pearl one morning when we had free time, and I returned it to him several hours later. He gave me the test he normally administered to his class and was flabbergasted when I could answer in detail. I would always read anything, too. The encyclopedia, Reader's Digest, cereal boxes, instruction manuals my parents left about. My parents were constantly scolding me for falling asleep with the light on and a book on my chest. I broke at least one pair of glasses this way.
I'm not mentioning all this because I want to brag, or to talk about how awesome or gifted I think I was (because I learned I'm just a small fish in a huge, enormous sea, once I got out of my small town), but because I hope it gives a glimpse of how ever-present books and reading were in my formative years. I'm not sure at what point reading was pushed to the back burner, but it unfortunately happened nonetheless. I became caught up with reinventing myself after leaving the conservative religion I grew up in, I moved away, I worked 60 hours a week, I partied in an incredibly self-destructive manner, I became obsessed with and possibly addicted to video games (not all at the same time, thankfully). For the last handful of years, I still enjoyed reading immensely, when I got around to picking up a book, but my reading was limited mostly to genre fiction and on vacations. I regrettably sold a fair amount of my books at garage sales or donated them.
Things changed several months ago, when I began to reconnect with Grace. Grace and I went to high school together, but never really "hung out", other than occasionally at the lunch table my junior year, if I remember correctly. I'm only vaguely certain how it all started, but I think my decision to rejoin the ranks of Tweeters was the catalyst. I started to casually follow Grace's book blog and was privy to a few Twitter conversations about books, and she quickly introduced me to her "Twitter family", several friends and online acquaintances she was sure (and rightly so) that I would get along with. I'm horrible with time frames and event sequences, but Grace and I met one evening for dinner and Moe's and to exchange some books after she initiated a book swap, and talked for several hours. Since then, not only have I felt instantly at home among her reader and writer circle of friends, I've been inspired by her and others to attempt to participate in NaNoWriMo, start this book blog, set personal reading goals for 2012, and participate in my first online readalong. That passion for reading is back, full force, and I don't think I can really find the words to express how grateful I am to her for that, but this is my feeble (but lengthy) attempt. So Grace, if you get to the end of this, thank you. So much.