I was never much of an avid reader when I was young. Like most people, I didn’t like being assigned readings because that almost takes the fun out of fully exploring the realm of imagination that comes with reading. Don’t get me wrong, I could appreciate a good story, but I rarely read for my own entertainment. Most of the times that I tried to read a work of fiction, I would lose interest after only a short while. I thought that maybe I just didn’t like the act of reading all that much. More recently, I thought, “Maybe it’s not the reading that I don’t like.” After all, I’ve enjoyed articles on whatever my topic of interest was for that particular time. It would range from science to religion to cooking to languages. I realized that reading is neither something I love nor hate, but the topics are what kept me reading. I felt like what I was reading applied more directly to my life at the time than the works of fiction I had tried to read.
October break provided an opportunity for me to delve into some works that touched on topics that could be applied to my life, but that I had never truly explored. The first book that I read is called The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown. The book is structured with ten guideposts with tips and explanations for living a life that is genuine to who we are and not the ways in which the outside world tells us we should live. She explores why it is that people feel they have to constantly prove themselves rather than knowing that they themselves are truly enough. Brown admits that she is not saying that we should not work to improve ourselves, rather that we should always be comfortable with who we are. If on our own terms we want to work toward something more, that’s great, as long as we don’t feel that our worth is dependent on our “successes.” Many of us deal with fears of things like vulnerability, but Brown justifiably asserts that things like vulnerability are what make life most beautiful. It is when we are vulnerable that we show who we genuinely are, and that is enough.
The second book that I read over October break was Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This book was a good complement to the first book in that it supports the theme of people being fully present in life. Kabat-Zinn’s book is about mindfulness and meditation. He discusses the different approaches to meditation, how to include meditation in any schedule, some specific practices and what someone might gain from practicing mindfulness. There might be times in our lives, or even our entire lives, in which we are not truly present. We can get caught up in worrying about the past or the future that we forget that the only reality is what is in the present. I now occasionally, because of the advice given by Wherever You Go, There You Are, will say the mantra, “This is it” or “Are you awake?”. Being able to be fully present in the moment allows us to do exactly that: live fully in the moment. These types of mindfulness practices help with taking all of the emotions that come with being outside of being in the present moment (anxiety about the future, shame because of the past) and allow us to see them more clearly. We can then more easily choose to pursue these absolutely valid emotions or not, instead of having these emotions control our lives.
I’m really glad I decided to start reading about the things that genuinely interest me, because anything else wouldn’t be genuine to who I am. These books have helped me, and I expect will continue to help me, to develop my life right now in the way that I want to live: truly alive.