5/17/17

THE READING HABIT

I remember pouting and grunting early Saturday mornings, when my father forced me to read the books he had on his shelves. I used to negotiate with him, and yet he always gets his way in the end. I read a page or two of his book, then I can go skip roping with my friends. That was the deal.

It seemed like it’d never end. Even on summer holidays, he’d wake me up just in time to see his new volume of Time for Kids Almanacs, National Geographic Magazines, hard-covered Reader’s Digest, and so on. He’s got loads of these. They were in a pile. His Encyclopedias, well don’t get me started with his encyclopedias — they were in volumes! Clearly, my father was a bibliophile. I’d see him alone in his office a lot of times, either reading or writing.

He began tormenting me with reading when I was in the first grade. On the weekends, before playing with the neighbors, he would sit me down in his office and hand me a book that was bigger than my face.

I remember once when he handed me this National Geographic Magazine with a starving African kid on its cover, I just felt compelled to read it. I looked at the pictures; didn’t bother much about the text, but I scanned the captions to get a glimpse of what was happening.

Aside from the starving African kid, it was the February 1982 issue of National Geographic — the one with a plain desert and three camels on its cover — that really captured my attention and one that I could never really forget even until now.

February 1982 issue of National Geographic.

I saw a picture that of a Princess being crowned in a huge cathedral. The hem of her gown flowing behind her. Apparently, as I read the caption, I learned that it was the consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the coronation of Empress Josephine in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris.

It was a painting of this beautiful coronation, and it used up two pages of the magazine, and I remember spending hours staring at it — looking at all the people inside the cathedral and wondering how Napoleon looked a lot like a little girl than a man.

Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I and Coronation of the Empress Josephine in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris on 2 Dec 1804.

And that’s where it started. My father would then wonder why he need not wake me up in the morning and find me in his studies, flipping my way through the pages of his book.

So you see, books were my entire childhood — not just a part of it. I was raised in a house with volumes of them dominating on the shelves before it was taken over by kitchen utensils.

It was in sixth grade when I wrote my own poem. Then I learned about odes and so I wrote a notebook full of them and they were all for my mother. Apparently, we had to move to a new house during that time, and so being the dramatic and sentimental girl that I was back then, I buried all my poems and odes in our backyard. That, I regretted years later.

High school days were pretty much the best days of my life. I got discovered by my English teacher during my sophomore year when she asked us to write a love story.

I wrote about my undeniable, going-through-puberty romantic feelings for our next door neighbor and how tragic it was because he liked another girl, who happens to be my cousin, which actually made it more dramatic. I wrote about how they had to move to another city because their house got burnt one night and they saved nothing but the machine his dad uses to fix shoes. I would later on realize that the boy actually had a crush on me, not on my cousin. But it would be too late.

My English teacher found that unconventionally appealing and had me join this feature writing contest in our school. I won third place. Not bad for my first time. The following year, I was asked to join the essay writing contest, and finally won the 1st place. No biggie. During my senior year, I was asked to participate in the 74th Cebu City Charter Day Celebration essay writing contest. However, I was not able to submit my piece because of the terrifying earthquake that left tons of people dead in our city.

The following week, I was asked by our school’s publication adviser to cover the tragic story, write a feature article, create a short story, and submit poems. I seriously bit more than I could chew. I figured these were the reasons why I never really bothered to join the school paper in the first place; I hate responsibilities. Which probably explains why, in my four years of college, despite my friends’ and my teacher’s persuasion to have me join the school paper and writing contests, I made myself deaf and mute.

But I would figure how much I’d regret that later on. If I were a bit braver back then, I would’ve fulfilled my life’s dream. But I was too much of a coward, really. I take shame in that. And I’d surely take that remorse to my grave.

So from reading, I grew very much into writing. But only when I came close to its truest form have I realized I’m not that good of a writer. I took years of hiatus in writing simply because my life isn’t that interesting to begin with. And I didn’t have the right colorful words to fully describe the blandness of my monotonous life for people to comprehend.

And so I thought why not become a news writer? I swear I thought I was going to be a journalist. I’ve never been so wrong in my entire life. Here are the facts I learned during my internship in a local newspaper company: I hate writing news. I hate structured writing. I hate being pressured into submitting my pieces. I hate being told what to write and how to write it. I hate meeting deadlines. I like to write when I feel like writing. And there goes my dream of becoming a journalist; left in cold ashes.

Now, what do I really want to do with my life? That, I’m still trying to figure out.

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