How to get Back into Reading

How to get Back into Reading

    If I could go back and tell my high school self that I would stop reading for fun, she would be disappointed. While growing up, I would read all the time. I constantly had a book for fun. I had friends who were avid readers, it was so much fun. Then when undergrad came, I did not have the free time like I used to. It was not until recently that I would find the joy and time for reading. I feel reconnected to my younger self’s love of books.

Undergrad was busy, I won’t lie to myself. I will also admit I stretched myself thin for the first 2 years. I felt like I had to be involved with many clubs and in many classes. I was going for music therapy my first year. That involved taking 8+ classes each semester. They would make certain classes only 1 credit hour so one would not have to pay for going over. Also, ensembles were ‘free credits’. I could not continue on with that, but that is a post for another day. It was not until my junior year that I would drop many extra curriculars. But that is when I was placing my health at the forefront. So the time I spent in extra curriculars, I shifted to working out and taking time to self care. I did not add books into the equation. I was still balancing 6-7 classes until I graduated, so the workload was intense.

When the pandemic hit, I focused on surviving a pandemic and working non stop. I was also attending grad school in the middle of this. I made it through my first semester and had a month break. I decided to read a little about spiritual topics. I was intrigued with working on my spirituality, so I read on it. This was the first time in years that I would read for myself because I was interested in a topic. Then school started back up and the cycle went back to working and school. I did not make the time for reading. 

As my previous posts have brought up, I have worked on my health, skincare, self love, and spirituality. With things slowly opening back up and vaccination numbers increasing, I felt more calm than I had since 2019. It was during this time, an old friend from high school posted on her instagram about her bookstagram page. I decided to give it a follow and support her. This was a tipping off point for my reading journey. This was one of my avid reader friends, we would trade books back and forth and talk about series. It sparked my interest in starting to read again. 

After following her, I began scrolling and found on Pinterest books to read. I started saving them to a new board. After I saw a few books pop up, I decided to get them on the kindle app. I started 2 series at once, “A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas and “A Touch of Darkness” by Scarlett St. Clair. These books pulled me into new worlds and brought me joy. From there I started reading comic series and continuing those book series. I felt the same joy that I used to back in high school.

So if you were a reader when you were younger, or you were never a reader but want to start, I have a few suggestions. I suggest following bookstagram pages, booktubers, or booktok. Some really good instagram suggestions are BookishLifeofSam_, Alexandra_Roselyn, and LadyofBookShire. For booktubers, I recommend Alexandra Roselyn and How to Train your Gavin. I do not have tiktok at the moment, so I don’t know booktokers. 

Also I suggest finding the genre you love. I was always a fan of fantasy, fey, and poems. That’s why I was sucked into those book series. Back in highschool I wanted to read the classics and I never got to read them all. So I went out to a local bookstore and picked up a few. If you were never really a reader before, go to a library and pick up different genres and see what pulls you in. 

I suggest making a space for reading. I have a couple of spots for myself. While I had not read in years, when I moved into my boyfriend’s house I struggled with making it feel like our home. I found comfort in making a reading corner. It had a comfy chair, blanket, and cozy lighting. I did not use it while we lived there but I do now. Along with that, I have a spot on my couch, with my weighted blanket, and I just curl up and feel at ease. The final spot I have is my bed. This keeps me from mindlessly scrolling all evening. It helps me relax after a long day and prepare for bed. You don’t need 3 spots like I do, I just don’t like having one spot. I like to change things up and keep it fun. Start with one spot, have the things that make it comfortable. I like curling up with a blanket. Maybe you like relaxing candles while you read. Maybe you like dim lighting or candle light. Maybe you like tea, hot chocolate, coffee or no drink while you read. Make it your own place.

Make time to read. This is an important suggestion, if you do not make the time for things you like you won’t do it. I found for myself that I like reading in the evenings before bed. I take care of cleaning and taking care of my plants in the evening before I read. After I’m done doing what I need to, I put on my PJ’s and curl up with my comfiest blanket. And I just read, some nights for 15 minutes and other nights for an hour. It just varies with what else I need to get done in the evening before work the next day. 

These are a few ways of how I got back into reading. It brings so much joy in my life to read again. To get lost in a world for some time before returning to the everyday hustle and bustle. I hope you find your spot and make the time to read. I hope you find the genre that speaks to you. I hope you find the self care aspect of reading.

Take Yourself on a Date

Take Yourself on a Date

    While on this self love journey, I have discovered the fun of taking oneself on a date. I have seen this idea throughout the years but I would get anxious for going to order or talk to a stranger. I thought I could never go out by myself. I have always lived with others and it was easiest to run errands with others. I never had to move out of my comfort zone. I would make strides in other ways but I never took that step out of my comfort zone. 

    With places opening up more and with me feeling more comfortable with going places, I started doing this. I did not necessarily make the conscious decision of hey I’m going to run errands and go treat myself during it. It arose from having to run an errand on my day off. With my odd schedule I get every other Wednesday or Friday off depending on when I work weekends. It does not line up with my boyfriend’s schedule. Yet, the stuff needed to be done.

    The first time I had to run out and pick up miscellaneous groceries for dinner and my boyfriend had meetings all day. So I ran out by myself, to quell some of the anxiety I picked up a treat for myself. This would come up a few times, where I had to run out to pick up stuff and I would treat myself. It was not until more recently that I would actually decide, I’m taking myself out on a date.

    My first date was a couple of weeks ago. I went out to a comic book store, coffee shop, and picked up tacos for lunch. Originally this day was supposed to be when my boyfriend and I went to run fun errands. Yet, his dad had the day off and was able to help us out with our patio. So my boyfriend stayed back and they worked on the patio. Mind you, there was only so much work. If I had stayed, I would have been more of a hindrance than helpful. I decided to still go out. I made an adventure out of it. 

    I stopped at a local coffee shop first. I talked with the barista for a bit and found out our birthdays are one day apart which is really cool. From there I went to the comic shop and ordered a series for myself. I also found a cool new series for me to start reading. I went to a taco truck and had a great conversation with the cook. He and I had a conversation in Spanish, which does not seem like much. But when you rarely get to talk in Spanish and you finally find another Latino, it is exciting. I came home and was excited to talk to my boyfriend about it. 

    My most recent date, I took myself to a local book shop. I had seen the book shop in passing but never stopped. Between my nerves with COVID and not making time, I had never gone in. I had my day off on Wednesday and my boyfriend was in meetings all day. I actually took the time to plan out my date, I would go to the bookshop and check out a local barbecue place. I went out to the bookstore and had so much fun. I would text my boyfriend with updates because I was really excited and wanted to share that with him. I spent an hour just browsing before I picked up many books. I got a few classics, a nice edition of Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, and a Disney series. The shop worker was such a sweet lady and we talked about the classics. Following I went to pick up lunch and the lady who helped me at the restaurant was so sweet and helpful. The food was amazing, and local. 

    Taking myself out on these last few dates have helped me feel more confident and happy. I feel confident in my ability to speak up for myself and do the things I want to do. I am not running on someone else’s schedule, or concerned about what they want to do next. This is not anything against anyone, it is just different. It was nice. I got to discover more of my town and meet lovely people. I had fun and I will be continuing taking myself on dates when my schedule calls for it. I love taking a couple of hours out of my day off and doing fun things. 

It was not easy to start off with. But I do highly recommend taking yourself out on a date. Start off small, take yourself out for coffee. Or go to a bookstore for a bit. As you get more comfortable with that, add to it. Typically when I would go out with my boyfriend, we would have a day out of it. We would have dinner and a movie or go out to a shopping center. Or we would go hiking all day long. So why can’t I do that for myself? Take the time and learn to be with yourself. You have been with yourself for your whole life. Why not celebrate yourself?

What a Break Taught me.

What a Break Taught me.

By my sophomore year of undergrad, I knew I wanted to finish early. At the start of sophomore year, it was more so due to financial concerns with my university. By the end of my junior year I was tired and burnt out. I didn’t realize that I would be so burnt out by the end of my junior year. During my 3.5 years, for the most part of my undergrad career I took at least 18 credit hours. I started out as a music major so that was the norm. When I switched majors to Psychology my sophomore year, I kept that norm. There were about 2 or 3 semesters where I only took 16 credit hours. When I told my boyfriend that I was going down to 16, he still thought I was doing a lot. While I had 6-8 classes, that wasn’t what burnt me out. If I  was just going to class then home, I think I would’ve been fine and not burnt out. Yet, I was in about 2-3 clubs my Freshman and sophomore year. I was also in my professional fraternity since the end of my freshman year. 

Balancing all of that, was exhausting. I have heard from so many friends and professors who said that junior year is typically the hardest year. Going into junior year, I was still on track to graduate early but was still balancing many clubs. I thought if I let one go, my stress and workload would go away. Alas, that wasn’t the case. Before my first semester of junior year ended, I had countless breakdowns. A turning point was when I dropped all the clubs other than my fraternity. When I say that lighted the load, I’m not even kidding. But the effects of doing all that, still left me burnt out. 

During my last semester of school, I had 5 classes and the bare minimum was needed from me for my fraternity. That was entirely different to what I was used to. So I had time to go work out and work on a research project. At this time, I was applying for Ph.D. programs (spoiler alert, I didn’t get into any. I’ll get more into that in a later blog post). The most stressful thing on my plate was applying to Ph.D. programs and finding out my plan for the inbetween. The start of this semester was a breeze. But when applications started opening up, I was stressing out all over again. When graduation rolled around, I was tired but happy with finishing undergrad. This was a huge accomplishment for a first generation college student.

When I was still in my last semester, I received an email from the Psych department about an internship opportunity. This internship was for a residential facility in the area. I thought I would send in my information, then go in and ask for a job rather than an internship. I didn’t want to take away the internship opportunity from a current student. Right before going to the facility, I printed out my resume and brought it in my purse. They had a group q&a for 3 internship applicants. I met with the lead therapist and program director. While we waited for the director, I was talking with the therapist about my experience at my last job. I worked in another residential facility with a different population. For confidentiality of my work, I will not specify the populations or age group. At the end of the q&a, they asked if we had any questions. I pulled every ounce of courage and explained; I am about to graduate and wanted a job. I gave them my resume and thanked them for everything.

A couple of weeks later, I sent them an email asking about any updates regarding my job request. I was told I wouldn’t need an interview and that I could come in and talk specifics. Mind you, I am normally very anxious when it comes to meeting new people and speaking up. They originally offered me a Residential Case Manager job/residential specialist. Meaning I would balance a case load and running groups every other weekend. If there was not enough case management, then I would be on the unit with the clients. They allowed me to take the rest of December off to celebrate graduation. This allowed me to spend time with my parents before moving in with my boyfriend who lives in the area of my undergrad and now work. 

The first month was me just training to be a case manager. By the end of my second month there, I met productivity which allowed me to shift to full time Residential Case Manager. Starting off, I loved working full time. I loved working with my clients and even though running weekend groups can get rough, it still is nice. This was different than going to 6-8 classes, a couple of clubs, and balancing relationships. Things were going smooth for a few months, even though I got rejected from Ph.D. programs. 

Then we ran into the issue of the pandemic and I kept hitting walls with my clients. I didn’t know how to best help them. So I would be going in circles with my supervisor aka the lead therapist. I would ask how to best help a certain problem and how to work with certain clients. My supervisor has taught me a lot of information in the 6 months that I have been at my work. I learned about using a token system for my younger client and ways to communicate with older clients. I took a free course about motivational interviewing that my supervisor found for me. That course was very insightful and definitely shifted how I interact with some clients. Some of the information that I’ve learned while working, I never learned in my undergrad experience.

But there are still times when I get stuck and by the time I talk to my supervisor, it feels like it’s too late. The client has moved onto what their current issue is that week. So I’m in this weird limbo of what to do. My boyfriend has been lending ear to all of my concerns and supported me when I was rejected. My boyfriend asked about what I thought regarding a master’s program. I had a friend who suggested applying to a Ph.D. and master’s program at the same time but I couldn’t afford that at the time. I spent a few days thinking and researching. Yet, many applications were closed because most students apply by February. I originally shifted to full online programs. Thankfully, I went back to my supervisor for her advice. She knew the director of a MSW program that was a hybrid program. She emailed her, and I was allowed to apply by the end of May. 

This is the program that I am currently enrolled in. And my job offers tuition reimbursement which is a blessing. This will keep me from going even further in student debt. I am grateful for the break from school that I have been given so far. This break has taught me so much about myself and about my clients. At the same time, it left me yearning for more school. I want to learn different ways of helping my current clients and my future clients. By keeping my current job this allows me to keep learning my clients and learning things outside of class. But by going to school, this will give me more knowledge to pull from. This will allow me to be more creative with working with clients. This break has refreshed my love of learning and I never thought that would happen.