Monday Musing: How Bad Weeks Can Be A Book Worm’s Best Friend

I’m no stranger to challenging weeks (or, let’s face it, months). Since moving to the US, my life has undergone an overhaul that I certainly couldn’t have anticipated when living as a fresh-faced and hopeful PhD student in the UK. While I figured that, by 30, I’d have a solid career, life plan, and the whole ‘adult’ package, I ended up hitting this milestone without much idea of where I’m going. Now 4 months into my 30th year, I still don’t have a clue. Faced with countless opinions on the criteria for ‘successful’ adulthood, it takes an incredible amount of effort to resist the pull of culturally and socially enforced ideas of where I ‘should’ be in my life. And it’s inevitable that these thoughts and fears feed into creating some pretty challenging moments.

As I’ve faced down the trials and tribulations of the many changes that have accompanied the past couple of years, books have been my constant friend. Where my commitment to the emotional deliverance promised by yoga and green tea varies with my mood, reading is something that I’ve never turned my back on. And, as a result, I’ve ended up with a remarkable appreciation for the almost miraculous power of literature as a tool for helping us to turn things around. Connected to my thoughts on bibliotherapy, we have so much to gain from reading. Understanding that literature can be there for us through all of life’s challenges is a true gift. Reading through my bad weeks offers me a perspective on the ways in which the magic of fiction can shift our mindset, educate our worldview and, at the very least, comfort us with more presence and peace than our most patient friends. If I’ve learnt anything over the past two years, it’s that the bad weeks offer priceless access to the healing power of reading and the precious gift of walking this world as a true lover of books. This knowledge certainly doesn’t eradicate the challenges but I feel that it makes them far easier and less isolating to navigate.

Roxane Gay

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