Monday, August 2, 2010

The Guilty American

Written by Nikki DeMarco

We Americans put too much pressure on ourselves. That’s one thing I’ve learned since living in Italy the past 4 years. Italians are whatever they say they are. They don’t question themselves or feel the need to justify or prove whatever it is they claim. They believe it about themselves so it is. I have a European friend that identifies herself as a skydiver. She told me she skydives once, maybe twice, a year. Would she make the cut of American skydivers who devote a weekend once a month or more? Or simply be labeled as a recreational skydiver, not the real thing?

I’m guilty of our heavy American thinking. I just started running/walking outside. I’m now just barely getting enough guts to start telling my closest friends that I might be a runner. I’ve been running on the treadmill for the past 2 months but that didn’t make my mental cut. Even now I describe myself as a “runner/walker”. I literally say in conversation, “I’m a runner slash walker.”

I do the same thing when it comes to reading. I love the written word and am constantly on the lookout for great new books, articles and blogs to read. Every morning when I wake up, my Google Reader has over 40 new items just waiting for me. I spend the whole of my day trying to sneak in a quick blog read here and there at work. In the evening I get a calm joy once that Reader number is set to zero. But I read less than 25 books a year. The book bloggers I follow online read that amount in a month. Because of the low number of books I have trouble identifying myself as a reader. I probably read the equivalent of a novella everyday online. Is that enough for the proper classification?

After getting my degree in English I got cross-eyed. Four years of constantly being behind. Reading all day everyday. When I wasn’t reading books I was talking about books. When we weren’t talking about books we were talking about words and language and syntax.

I was burnt out. I took a break. Reasonably so. See, there goes my American need to justify something as simple as taking a break. In Italy people take a 3-hour break in the middle of every day and don’t feel like they need to justify it to anyone, especially the other European countries who tut tut them for holding on to old traditions. When I did start reading again I picked up modern love stories and mysteries. Chaucer, Austen, Hemingway and I weren’t spending as much time together as we once had.

That doesn’t mean what I was doing was any less valuable. My love of stories hasn’t decreased. We need to give ourselves more credit.

A runner runs.

A reader reads.

3 comments:

Heather said...

"After getting my degree in English I got cross-eyed. Four years of constantly being behind. Reading all day everyday. When I wasn’t reading books I was talking about books. When we weren’t talking about books we were talking about words and language and syntax."

Oh my gosh, that is exactly what happened to me! I read nothing but crap and fluff after I got my English degree; I couldn't stand to read anything that made me think very hard! I think it was a couple of years before I started reading good stuff again!

I can't imagine waking up to only 40 items in my GR. That would be a miracle! I wake up to 1000+ every day! Granted, I have way too many feeds in my GR. I really need to cut some, but it is so hard.

As a reader, I think the main this is to relax and have fun. Reading shouldn't be a chore. So what if you only read 25 books by the time others have read 200? As long as you enjoyed them, I think it's great! And honestly, I don't see how you can get anything out a book when reading that fast. I don't think I would enjoy it, let alone retain any of it.

April said...

I love Italy and their way of life. I wonder if they live longer.

Great article. If you love literature, that's all you need!

Kristina said...

This is fantastic! I want a 3 hour break in the middle of my work day lol. I would feel the need to justify it though =(

I do read about 20-30 books a year and I always sneak in my Google reader all day. I would most definitely consider myself a reader =) (Now comes the justification.....) I just don't read as fast or have enough time to read as some people. Thanks for the great article =)