I was recently taken to task a little for the amount of reading I do. Apparently it is too much in some people’s eyes. The conversation got me thinking about the difference between feeling passion and playing it cool.
I was brought up to be quiet, to not boast,to always think others are more interesting. I didn’t do very well at quiet, but I paid a price for that in the disappointed looks and the being sent away from a room where adults were talking. I was told more times than I care to think that I needed to not speak up. I was also told, a lot, to get my nose out of a book. Reading was encouraged and a good thing to do, but not to excess. Not to the point of absorption.
These comments stayed with me for a long time, even as a young adult. I was hesitant to achieve not because of a fear of failure but because it might be construed as boasting. I would stop myself from reading because I could hear someone telling me to get outside on such a nice day. I didn’t promote my expertise for a long time, because someone was likely to tell me I was wrong.
In the end, of course, personality wins out. I know no other way to read. I get swept away in a story – I cry, I laugh out loud, I get angry. Although I don’t completely disengage with those around me while reading, I can be hard to pull away from a good book. My boys know this, they tease me about it, gently, but don’t get in the way of me finishing a book. (I did put down novels for a number of years when my son was young, as I knew he needed my full attention. I still read of course, but interesting non-fiction that I found easier to put down and pick up at a later moment, stealing a page of reading here or there when I could.)
A facade of coolness was what I was expected to achieve. Read, but not voraciously. Speak intelligently, but not too passionately. Be smart, but not too smart. Meet all the societal norms with grace and good humour.
There are people who are naturally that way, and are so obviously comfortable in that coolness. I admire those people, and appreciate their ability and their effortless way of making people feel good around them while admiring them at the same time.
I am not one of those people. I love to debate. I love to get so caught up in a discussion that we don’t notice the light fade around us. I love to read. I love to be so swept away in a story that I can’t emerge until it’s over. I like to laugh out loud. I cry, easily and readily. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and coolness has never really been in my repertoire.
It’s taken me time to get comfortable with these parts of me, and the recent conversation reminded me that I can still be made to feel uncomfortable with who I am. I didn’t like that, and so I am putting it out here for anyone to read.
This is me.