Reading trumps video as true mind salve

I’ve never read as much as I have as when I was a kid.

I don’t for sure know why.

I guess a young mind is unfettered, uncluttered, innocent, lacking in the experiences, pain, joys, boredom and negative influences that adulthood can sometimes bring.

When I was a boy, reading-wise, I couldn’t get enough of sports and history. Like many young kids, I wanted to be a major league baseball player, until I couldn’t; then I was left wondering what else I’d like to be when I grow up and realized there wasn’t anything else.

Oh sure, I played guitar and was in bands.

I remember when MTV played actual music videos in the 80s, too.

I think it’s good if you take up at least one musical instrument when you’re young.

There is nothing like the discipline that comes from practicing the guitar, piano, trumpet, bass, flute, violin, whatever.

It’s good to be exposed to a lot of different stuff when you’re young.

For me, I found out a lot of things I didn’t want to be, didn’t want to do, didn’t want to play and didn’t want to be in or join, partake in, sell candy bars on behalf of, take up collections for…again, whatever, and you get the picture—you say everyone else is doing it? Not me.

I guess when you find something, or come across something, that comes easy to you, or easier to you than most, you tend to gravitate towards it.

All I knew that I liked once I realized I wouldn’t play ball for a living when growing up, was hardly much at all.

I liked writing, loved essay tests in school and even had an English teacher tell me she hoped to see my byline in the New York Times some day.

That hasn’t happened and probably won’t.

I thought that was nice of her to write that in my high school year book, though.

After researching it, and coming to find what the various states of the journalism world were over the years, I felt the New York Times was doing just fine without me, and me, without them.

I used to say young people should have at least one of the following three occupations under their belts in order to generate some humility, and just plain appreciation for the life you’re allowed to lead:

1. Wait tables

2. Clean toilets/perform janitorial services

3. Be in the military

As someone who’s done all three, I understand what it’s like to endure what some might consider unfair or over-the-top treatment in a less than dignified fashion.

It really does build character and help keep from forming a sense of entitlement when it comes to going through what the world will try to beat you down with later.

Getting a college degree will give you lots of theory but no real-world experience.

I grant you that a degree is absolutely necessary, if not expected, if you’re a young person in this day and age—especially if you plan on meeting someone, starting a family and providing for them.

My problem with the college route is the student loan debt load versus return on investment.

This economy will continue to be rough for at least a decade, maybe more.

We’re in uncharted territory when it comes to progression of life.

It used to be you could be assured of higher earnings with a degree.

That is no longer the case, as (shudder) even burgeoning lawyer numbers are in decline!

So what should you do?

How about trying a trade?

You could be a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, a heavy equipment operator.

Or you can go to school and get that degree.

What’s not cool these days is that you have to be focused and have a plan for what your degree should be…

Be an engineer!

That’ll pay off your student loan the quickest and return the biggest bang for your buck earnings-wise, you say!

Could be.

But do you really want to be an engineer?

I remember when being 18 meant a time for experimentation.

You were trying to figure some stuff out.

You didn’t necessarily need to find out what the heck the meaning of life was, let alone what you would do and how you would do it, in terms of making a living and providing for yourself and your loved ones.

These days, though, the pressure to have it all figured out in terms of what you want to be when you grow up, what you should study and become, at such an early age, has arguably, never been greater.

You’ll probably keep reading as you go through life.

It may be required if you’re in school.

You may just like to do so.

I would hope your reading paths are driven from leisure and whim, rather than academic requirements.

That way you could start a book, put it down and pick it back up seven years later; hopefully, when your mind isn’t so full of distractions, when you’re feeling like a kid again.

Maybe you’ll even forsake that movie playing in the airplane on the back of the seat in front of you, beckoning you for a swipe of your credit card, in favor of a book you’ve been meaning to enjoy.

And you can keep it to yourself, too. People who have to tell you about how many books they read aren’t really people whose selections you’ll appreciate, anyway.

Book choices, like friends, like occupations, like paths in life, are best found on your own.



2 replies »

  1. As always, great article Bob, and I totally agree with you. I think that a lot of not being able to read as much as we used to when we were kids has a lot to do with the fact that we just don’t have time to do it anymore. I would love to be able to just sit down and read a good book, or magazine for pleasure (especially all the ones piling up in my house that I want to “get to,” but I just don’t have the time. As we grew up, there are just too many other things (work, family other life commitments) that take up our valuable time, and reading for pleasure gets shoved down the list. At 49 years old, I found myself having to go back to school to try and gain some additional skills for a possible new career (you know how our industry is), so I in-fact so a LOT of reading; textbooks, and web articles mostly, but nothing for pleasure or enjoyment anymore, which really sucks.

    You have some great thoughts about learning an instrument for discipline, which I think is a great idea. I took up the drums in junior high (much to my neighbors dismay) and wanted to be the next John Bonham or Neil Pert, which after many years of playing never materialized, but I had a blast, and still learned valuable skills, lessons and enjoyment which I carry with me to this day.

    I would also like to add to your list of jobs to be to be done by a young person for humility:

    . Volunteer or work in a nursing home or hospice

    .Volunteer or work in a animal rescue kennel like the Humane Society or a PAWS shelter.

    Work in a restaurant kitchen or a construction or trade job.

    Thanks again for a great article Bob. I think your would have done GREAT at the New York Times!


    • Excellent additions to the humility builders, Tony, and thanks for the compliments, too. I think you are spot on when it comes to the fact that as we get older, our lives typically get so much busier and the chances for reading for enjoyment diminish as there are only so many hours in a day. I can usually guarantee that when I do find (make) the time to read something I’ve back burnered for seemingly forever, though, I am always glad I did. I most recently finished Johnny Cash’s autobiography “Cash” that I’ve had on my coffee table since 2008 embarrassingly enough, and reaffirmed once more that reading for personal enjoyment is truly one of the great pleasures in life.

      Glad you enjoy the columns and keep the great comments flowing–I truly appreciate them. I am also happy to know that you play(ed) the drums, too. Who knows, maybe some day I could bring my guitar and we could have an informal jam session, but if that chance should never materialize, I hope you can at least find the time to do some reading for enjoyment soon–as we both know, like me, you’ll be glad you did.


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