I'm an English major with no time to read

By Hadassah Umbarger, Staff Writer

On my desk at my house sits a novel. (Gasp. An English major with a novel on her desk. Startling revelation, Hadassah.) (Oh hush, it’ll make sense in a minute.)

I started it over Christmas break and read nearly half of it then. Now I read a chapter here and there when I’m at home,  usually when I’m eating breakfast at the house (“Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.”— C.S. Lewis).

But I’ve realized with growing horror that over the nearly two years that I’ve been here, the part of me that wants to read something for the sake of reading something has grown despondent.

Why is this?

Well, for starters, I am required to read a lot for classes, which isn’t a bad thing. If I didn’t like reading I would not be an English major. In fact, one of the main reasons I chose to be an English major was because reading was one of my favorite things to do. But you can have too much of a good thing.

Another reason is probably the fact that I am a terrible procrastinator. I’ll prime myself to get a lot of homework done and then simply watch the pile of homework grow with a silent and deadly speed. Of course then I get paralyzed by fear, and instead of either doing homework and getting it over with or doing something I enjoy while I avoid it, I end up stuck in a state of limbo. I can neither be productive nor enjoy myself if I know that there is homework that needs to be done.

And this makes me sad. I know that on paper, I have enough time to devote to both my homework and to my hobbies, one of which is reading. And yet between my procrastinate-y self and reading that’s required, I’ve not been able to just get sucked into a good book for a long time.

I had someone who is a biology major tell me the other day that they were jealous of me because I get to read a lot. That’s partly true, but there is more than one kind of reading. In my opinion there is both goal-less and goalful reading.

The reading that we do for classes is goalful. Most likely we have a paper or discussion board coming up, so we are aware of the content we’re reading and try to glean useful information out of it.

The kind of reading that I’m going to do in my pajamas with my cat is goal-less. I guess goal-less isn’t the best word because technically getting absorbed into a book when I don’t have anything else to do is a goal. But there isn’t usually an external goal influencing me.

Now, before my professors have a heart attack, I would like to say that there is definitely a place for both kinds of reading. Goalful reading can lead me to have a deeper understanding of the text and the things surrounding it (like endophoric or exophoric references) and simply coming to appreciate the text more. But goal-less reading is comparable to watching TV—I can let my mind wander without (usually) feeling guilty about focusing on not focusing.

So the question remains—if both kinds of reading are beneficial, how is a college student to balance the both of them in her/his daily life?

The short answer is I don’t know. I’ve not even been bringing my novel to campus with me because I know that I usually won’t have a time or place to read it.

There’s got to be an effective way to schedule in hobbies with the rest of our lives. But until I figure out that method, I’m going to try and take a chunk out of this pile of homework that’s staring at me. Wish me luck.

PHOTO: Hadassah Umbarger, Staff Writer