I Haven’t Read a Book in About Ten Years

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This will come as a shock to some – “WHAT? Adrienne hasn’t read a book?! How can this be possible when all she talks about are books?”

Because ten years ago, I was about thirteen. Because ten years ago, all I wanted to do was read. Because ten years ago, I was less stressed. Because ten years ago, all I had to focus on was the book in my hand.

A lot of my old habits are still in place today. I still carry a book with me everywhere, and I never buy a new purse unless it passes the Book Test (can a standard book fit inside it). I still read when I have spare moments, such as waiting in line at the grocery store or when I am waiting for someone. However, I don’t enjoy books like I used to.

I’ve always been a fast reader. But the older I get, the more I realize that my reading speed is slowing down. There are hundreds of excuses why. And the truth is that sometimes I would rather spend time with my friends than read a book. The book will always be there. That moment with my friend will not be. So, I guess you could say it’s a priority shift.

Furthermore, the people who truly love books won’t be on the Internet telling you because they are too busy reading! I love books, sure I do. But sometimes (a lot of times) I get distracted by the Internet and its sparkly world of social media. Now I am more likely to look at page numbers than I was ten years ago, because now my time constraints are greater. I read a lot of children’s books for multiple reasons: I am studying to be a children’s librarian, children’s books are more fun to me, and, in most cases, there are less pages. It takes me two weeks to read a children’s book, whereas it would probably take me less than a month to read a 500-page adult book. Frankly, I am not ready to enter into the adult world yet, but that is another post.

It has been ten years since I fully savored a book, tasted it and let it consume me. I don’t cry as much when I read books anymore, and big part of that is because I am not immersed in the story as I once was. In the age of the Internet and adult life, I am not surprised. But reflecting on this certainly does make me stop and realize what I am missing.

Giving Up, Giving In, and Discipline

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I feel like I should change the name of this blog from “Girl vs. Pittsburgh” to “Girl vs. Her Own Self.” Obviously, it’s been a long time since I wrote anything on here. I can blame graduate school, but really I lost confidence in myself and my writing. I lost confidence in the dream I once had of becoming a writer. And I’ve been struggling with a lot. Life has been full of good things, like classes (both good and bad), my friends, my family, my job, and my boyfriend of a little over three months. However, I’ve also been struggling with do I really want to leave the Pittsburgh area now that I’m here, am I going to get a job as a librarian, friends that I thought were friends but probably weren’t, what does it really mean to be a woman, and why don’t I just sit down, pick up a pen, and begin writing?

Believing you are blessed with talent is one thing, but actually practicing that talent is something else. I don’t believe you keep a talent without practicing it. And I have not been practicing at all. Like I said, grad school is an easy culprit, but the real culprit, the REAL reason I haven’t been writing is myself, my lack of confidence, and my lack of discipline. I gave up. But now I am giving in to the dream I once had.

Discipline has not been easy. My boyfriend asks me, “Did you write today?” I am always embarrassed when I have to say no. Again, I can blame school, work, my summer practicum, etc., but the real person to blame is myself. I am not making the time for it. That is MY fault.

My best friend is Sarahbeth Caplin, a talented self-published author. Sarahbeth writes everyday. Of course she’s amazing. Don’t concert violinists practice everyday? Baseball players? They don’t sit back and rest on that one hit they made back in college in 2009. They constantly work to make themselves better.

Right now I am sitting on a lumpy pillow of the things I wrote as a teenager. If I ever want to be the writer I want to be, I need to quit sitting around, and begin writing again. Get a little ink on my hands. That’s the only way you become better.

Love Isn’t All I Need, But I Do Need It

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Last night, two of my coworkers and I had a movie night. Like any sensible 20-somethings, we watched Frozen (don’t hate). Olaf is my favorite character (and Sven). Olaf is one of the sweetest characters in that whole movie, and for all his goofiness, he is packed full of wisdom. For example, let’s just talk about the entire scene when Hans has left Anna to die of cold. Olaf shows up to save the day, lighting a fire at risk to his own personal safety. Anna laments that she doesn’t know what love is, and Olaf says, “Love is putting someone else’s needs before yours.” That’s big stuff for a little snowman that hasn’t been alive very long. And then he tells Anna, as his nose drips off his face, “Some people are worth melting for.”

When I got home after the movie night, still pondering these words, I thought about my whole anti-romance kick that I’ve been following for years. I kept saying, “I don’t want to get hurt again.” I love people. I love my parents, my siblings, my grandma, my extended family, my friends, and my dog. But all that love comes with a risk.

Angel died last year. I loved her with all my heart and that was the first time she left me. It was a tempestuous (I love that word) year with my family. My friends are scattered all over the country. Anyone can leave you, anyone can be gone in an instant.

When I moved back to Pittsburgh, I tried not to get close with too many people. I would just be gone soon anyway. But I’m still here, and now I have so many people that are becoming close friends the more we hang out. Katrina came line dancing with me a few times and is one of my confidants, Shannon and I have adventures, Kristin understands my love for Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Disney movies, Alaina and I talk about children’s books, John texts me to see how I’m doing, Alex recommends books, and Phil helps me grow as a person. And those are only some of the amazing people I met in Pittsburgh.

Inspired by Olaf, I opened my Bible to 1 Corinthians 13. Everyone knows it: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Love is patient. I am not a patient person. Could I be patient for another person? I don’t know. Love is kind. Can I be a beacon of kindness for another person and treat them as he or she deserves? I don’t know. Love protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. Can I do that? I don’t know.

Love is a risk. It’s always a risk. And the probability of falling in love again means I most likely will get hurt. My goal is to work on my trust issues to figure out if I can be the kind of love that trusts and isn’t ready to give up after five minutes. Or expect the man in my life to give up after five minutes.

So I asked myself, is love worth it? Is it worth the pain and heartache again? Yes, because I am better prepared. Yes, because I am more honest with myself. It probably will blow up in my face. But the chance to love and to open my heart to others is worth more than never having taken that risk at all. If it makes me a better person, it is worth it.

I need love. I want love. Falling in love is like jumping off a cliff when a pack of snarling wolves is after you: Sometimes you just have to do it.

No Longer Apologetic for Being a Woman

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In middle school, I loved a good romance. I used to secretly read books like the Sweet Valley High series, and any story that had a love story was appealing to me. Until now, I never told that I read those voraciously.

Then when I got older, I found out it was taboo. “Chick lit.” Any film focusing on the female condition was dismissed as a “chick flick.” Only appealing to women, not the higher society of men.

I say that sarcastically because I am tired of stories being dismissed because they tell a woman’s tale. Today is Jane Austen’s 239th birthday. She is my favorite author of all time, right up there with J.K. Rowling (Shannon Hale is slowly, but quickly, joining these two literary giants in my high estimation). However, tell someone you are a Janeite, especially a man, and then comes the flow of “Oh, that’s chick lit,” “I read her stuff in high school, it was boring.”

Before I entered the world of librarianship, I was very much a literary snob, but I always kept my “guilty pleasures” secret. If I liked a book that wasn’t of high literary caliber to a man, I kept my mouth shut.

Not anymore! I want to read everything I want to read. I want to read the young adult literature that I’ve been putting off because I am afraid of what others will think when they see me reading a book with a teenage girl on the cover. I am throwing away the idea of “boy books” and “girl books.” Instead, I am calling them children’s books, young adult books, or adult books.

And as far as the stories I like, I may be a “natural born cynic” (to quote last year’s Newbery Award winning-book Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo), as far as romance is concerned, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a good story.

You’ve Got Mail is one of my favorite films of all time. I also loved Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. Nora Ephron is the Jane Austen of films – she portrays real women doing real things. Real women, and men, fall in love. Real women, and men, have emotional needs that must be met or that person feels depressed or incomplete. Why must emotions be exclusively a woman’s territory and why must we as women apologize for wanting to meet those emotional needs? Why should our stories, our successes, our failures, our hopes and dreams be of lower culture than those of our menfolk?

I’ll tell you something – they are not lower culture. WE as women are not lower culture. Whether we are writers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, librarians, stay-at-home moms, single with no family, or wives with no children, all of our stories are important. We are all people in the eyes of God. Men, I want to hear your stories. Women, I want to hear yours.

Tell me.