Reading, Working, Reading

I worked private security for a little over a year as an undergrad. It was one of the worst jobs I’ve ever done. I took it out of absolute financial necessity; it was in the middle of the 2007 recession and my old job of repairing music gear and teaching guitar had completely dried up. The idea of doing something so miserable -with some of the worst people I’ve ever met for co-workers- was sharply juxtaposed against my previous work, happy and fulfilling. The one redeeming quality was that I had time to read. Reading was against company policy, but I routinely worked 12-hour gigs with absolutely nothing whatsoever happening for hours at a time, and if I hadn’t read I would have either slept or become homicidal. Overnight assignments in the oilfields and in commercial buildings made up the majority of my posts, and I had plenty of uninterrupted time between patrol checks.

I read well over 200 books that year. Some of them were for school, some of them were short, and many of them were pulpy science fiction, because much more challenging to read something like The Sound and the Fury or Ulysses when you are isolated and alone at a job you hate. In spite of that, I did read a lot of very good books. I took chances on things I wouldn’t normally, like  Catch-22 and Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, which I loved. I didn’t miss the job when I left, but I had a hard time getting in good reading time, because reading was something I had only really done at work, unless it was for a class.

I’m teaching again, now in a more formal setting. I’ve started reading on my lunch break, and on my prep periods (after I’ve finished any necessary prep, of course). I also make sure I crack a book at home after work. Getting in the habit of surfing dumb shit online can suck the life out of me and negatively affect my motivation to write, while getting immersed in a powerful narrative or a provoking essay does exactly the opposite. Make time to read, uninterrupted and with your entire attention.


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