— Annie Dillard
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a reader. I learned at an early age that words were everywhere and I read them all—the shampoo bottles in the shower, the cereal boxes on the breakfast table, and the junk mail in the recycling bin. If it had words, and my eyes were not committed to something else, I was reading those words. My first choice was (and still is) a book. However, I’m not picky about the genre: mystery, biographies, romance, fantasy, nonfiction or self-help – I read it all.
I made it through my first 21 years reading whatever crossed my path, but graduate school disrupted this pattern for me. For the first time in my life, I found that I was reading so much for work and school, that reading for pleasure simply wasn’t an option. At the end of the day trying to actually decipher the words in front of me was out of the question. Who wants to read anything when they spent the better part of the afternoon in the dictionary looking up words such as opsimath and malapropism? Honestly, it got to the point where the mere thought of holding open a book that wasn’t required reading was exhausting.
Although the time I could devote to reading for pleasure dwindled, my love of books never wavered. As I researched for literature reviews, I would find books that didn’t exactly fit my research goal but still piqued my interest. I continued to browse garage sales and thrift stores and pick up romantic comedies to pull me away from the realities of school work, and memoirs to help fuel my own dream to write my own story someday. The past two years has led to an overabundance of newly acquired books stacked in piles around my bed, and little to no books leaving my room (much to the dismay of my parents). Up and up the books stacked, and up and up went my aspirations to read for fun again once I graduated.
I am now three weeks out of school and I still haven’t opened a book from the piles. It’s not that I’m not interested, because I am. Even as I write this, the desire to feel the paper between my fingers and to disappear into someone else’s story tugs at me. However, the minute I walk into my room, the pages I used to find solace in now scare me. I’m daunted by the mountain of books, fearful that I’ll never get through the stacks but still yearning to buy more. I’m afraid that I no longer know how to read for fun, and that instead of enjoying the words, I’ll spend my time dissecting the psyches of the college-aged characters.
Apparently, I was unaware that graduate school can have long-term effects beyond the actual completion of a degree. Warning: Side effects can include but are not limited to: fear of commitment to another project, imposter syndrome when choosing an area of interest, and an undeniable urge to apply theory to fictional characters. Seek medical attention if symptoms continue after two years.
The next challenge in my journey as a SA professional is upon me. I need to start to transition from the graduate school mindset back into the real world. I spent the last two years trying to balance graduate school and full-time work; now I need to learn how to rebalance my life as a full-time professional with the parts of old life that I’ve put on hold. I miss the world where reading is a fun activity; something to be enjoyed at the beach or in a comfortable recliner. It’s been a great two years filled with more than 378 scholarly articles (but who’s counting); I’ve learned a lot. But it’s time to make it happen. The books have been patiently waiting and my recliner is ready. The change starts tomorrow.