When I was just a wee lad, I carried around a book wherever I went and read whenever I had any free time. In class, I’d hide a book under my desk and read whenever the teacher wasn’t looking, much like students do with their phones today.
It was so immersive that I felt like I was actually in the book’s universe. My dreams at night reflected whatever I was reading at the time.
But then at some point around middle school, I lost interest in reading. It was no longer enjoyable, but a tedious task.
By the end of high school, I couldn’t read a single page without losing focus and having to start over. My reading comprehension skills were horrible. I had to read the same paragraph several times before I understood what I read. It made me feel stupid and hurt my head, so I’d get frustrated and give up. I was convinced something was wrong with my brain because I couldn’t focus on what I was reading.
One day, I was meditating because someone told me it’d help with my migraines (it did!). During this session, I had a life changing epiphany which made me realize why it’s so difficult for me to read.
I had a flashback to 7th grade where I was sitting in first period English class. The first 15 minutes of class were silent reading time and I was reading ‘Eragon’ by Christopher Paolini (great book, horrible movie).
My friend kept trying to talk to me cause he didn’t enjoy reading. I would reply and go back to my book. He kept talking so I asked him to be quiet so I could read. This bothered him so he started calling me a nerd. He was one of the popular kids in school so his opinion really impacted me. From what I saw on TV, nerds were bullied and always portrayed negatively.
My school had a rep for being violent so my survival instincts kicked in. I didn’t want to get beat up for being a nerd, so I subconsciously began cutting class for the first time. I would make fun of the other nerds, who were once my friends. I’d disrupt class, stopped reading and let my grades drop just to prove to myself and others that I wasn’t a nerd. I starting getting into fights since I didn’t have books to keep me calm.
In hindsight, my friend wasn’t very smart and got left back a couple times. He probably felt insecure that I was reading for fun when he could barely read at all. To make himself feel better, he had to put others down. He wasn’t a bad person, he was just trying to fit in, like me.
Thinking back, I can’t believe I let other people’s thoughts influence my life so significantly. But at that age, you just wanna fit in and make friends. You haven’t developed the ability to think logically, so you adopt these irrational, self-limiting beliefs.
Years later, you forget where these beliefs originated but continue to live by them because it’s how your brain is wired. Unfortunately, we all have lots of these shitty beliefs that we developed when we were young and naive. It is my goal to help you untie these mental knots and gain control of your mind.
Eventually, I realized that many of my favorite DJs and Rappers were huge nerds. One of my favorite actors, Terry Crews, is a huge nerd. Your phone, computer and iPod (do people still use those?) were created by nerds. Nerds have build the most powerful organizations in history using code. Nerds rule the world! So why wouldn’t I want to be a nerd?
And with that realization, my fear was vanquished! I embraced my true nature and I enjoyed reading once again, a truly liberating feeling!
I’m incredibly grateful for my life, but sometimes I wonder how different things would’ve been if I ignored my friend’s words. I could’ve read hundreds of books in the 7 years I stopped reading! Maybe I would’ve gotten into MIT, my dream university and counted cards with Kevin Spacey in Las Vegas.
I asked several of my friends a question. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about reading?
The friends who enjoy reading responded: Peace, Relaxation, Adventure, Inspiring, Coffee shop
The friends who hate reading responded: Textbooks, Homework, Annoying, Boring, School
People who enjoy reading associate it with positive things like tranquility and the smell of a coffee shop. People who don’t enjoy reading associate it with negative things like textbooks forced upon them.
So, if you want to develop the habit of reading, you have to create positive associations. You have to create positive memories with reading. Start a book club, reading is much funner when you can have discussions with your friends. Read books that truly appeal to you and peak your interest.
When I started reading again, I got some graphic novels and comic books. Then I started reading Game of Thrones and Philosophy books, gradually improving my reading skills.
I would set a timer and read for 20 minutes every single day. There was some resistance at first, which appears any time you attempt to change your behavior and reprogram your mind, but I pushed through.
It was amazing how quickly I managed to get back into reading. In just a week, my reading skills skyrocketed. I read books front to back in one sitting, something I previously thought impossible . It was so exciting that I spent the next few weeks binge reading anything I could get my hands on. Books about Nikola Tesla, Carl Jung, Cannabis, Behavioral Psychology, Ancient Civilizations, Technology, Aliens and all the things that fascinate me.
I even lost 20 pounds effortlessly because instead of consuming sugary snacks when I was stressed or bored, I would consume knowledge and use it to improve my life. Reading made me appreciate writing a lot more as well.
Previously, I was overstimulated by social media, television, video games and sugar which screws up your dopamine receptors. This makes it hard to focus and be happy. Your body feels sluggish and weak cause its filled with mental and physical crap.
When I started reading and writing with my free time, my dopamine receptors healed. I started to feel a natural, blissful high that I haven’t felt since I was a child. Colors are more vibrant and its like I have HD Vision.
I also learned that you can use this principle of associations with ANYTHING!
For example, when I was like four, my brother tricked me into taking a bite out of a plum. I took a big bite and turns out it wasn’t actually a plum, but a tomato. I immediately spit it out and almost puked. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t eat a tomato for sixteen years. Today, I laugh at the memory and re-associated tomatoes with health and nutrition, and they’re delicious!
I’ve taught myself to appreciate all types of music, art, movies, books, people, everything! Now that I think about it, my friend calling me a nerd back in middle school might’ve been greatest thing to happen to me since it led to this invaluable discovery.
Thanks for reading and I hope this story helps you make positive changes in your life. Share it with your friends and follow Stay Lit Club’s social media pages for updates, inspiration and the dankest of memes. Peace!