Immigrant Reader

Posting only when I’m inspired obviously hasn’t been working for me all that much these past weeks. Being disciplined too. I’ve had the time, but I guess my mind has been other places. Since my new job, my brain has been tossed spinning into the land of SEO and inbound marketing. But growing up with Facebook and a general social media-plus-internet-language proficiency has cut my learning curve blessedly short. And so the roller coaster ride down into marketing has been cushioned by familiarity. I can actually say truthfully that I write blog posts for a living…although that’s not all there is too it.

Despite being distracted temporarily from my published author of novels dream, I’m still throwing myself equally as head-long into the worlds of other’s imagination. Post school, I’ve found a place in which I don’t always have time to read, but I can always read whatever I want when I do. It’s spoiling me. Instead of reading less, I’m almost reading more (just look at my Goodreads account for the last three months. Don’t actually. You’re not that interested, and if you are, I worry).

This has given me time to fully appreciate the places reading can take us when I don’t have assignments and test questions poking at the back of my mind. I’m reading for pure enjoyment all the time, and it’s made me think about the following quote by Jean Rhys:

“Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important it finds home for us everywhere.”

the-wanderer

When we read, even for entertainment’s sake, we are putting ourselves in other people’s lives, in other people’s times, in other people’s places. It takes us outside of ourselves. A lot of people label that escapism with a derogatorily down-turned nose.

But escapism in this respect rings with a crisp, unselfish note. Even in a world that doesn’t exist, find yourself empathizing with a character – hoping to see redemption and the defeat of evil – and you find yourself taken outside of your own dreads and aspirations. And let’s be honest – your dreads are dull compared to Frodo’s.

One thing that worries me just a little as I prepare to become a force in my company’s social media content is that my personal life and discussions are only two clicks and a password away. No proof or authority on this, but my guess is that a lot of people spend more time browsing Facebook or Twitter than they do reading books. Sound like a reasonable assumption? Perhaps many of those people spend more time networking or blogging about themselves than they do reading about other people’s lives, fictitious or not.

I didn’t write to lecture, especially since I do plenty of both social networking and blogging my thoughts in my spare time. But it’s easy with all the distractions to become wrapped up in self and forget the joys and difficulties of being taken away from home and “becoming an immigrant.” Even if it’s just an escapist book.

By way of contrast, social media has it’s own methods of escapism. On Facebook you escape from yourself by molding your online presence to exactly what you want others to think of you. It’s the world of impressions. You escape yourself into yourself, but whose the real yourself? (Not a typo. Promise. My computer doesn’t believe me.) And what’s the real version of the people you’re stalking all day? If Plato were alive today, he’d have to remodel his cave allegory to include men and women using social media.

Reading for pure and free enjoyment or reading to learn – you become a traveler, an immigrant taken from the safety of home and self. Books shape us more than we give them credit for. I’m convinced that if everyone read To Kill a Mockingbird once a year or so, we’d all be better people. I never said all books are good and healthy, but I think traveling and finding a home in new places daily makes us less selfish and more empathetic.

I’ll have to be careful to continue to find time to read and balance “traveling” with the work I do during the day…even if it leads me to post my thoughts on WordPress and Facebook less.

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