Reading for Growth

Seeing as I work with young people on a daily basis I can make a strong assertion that the majority of high school students in the last 50 years have not done their reading for school. Admit it… you were probably a part of this trend too.

I was.

We complain about things like: “who really decided that THIS was a classic novel”, “I tried to start reading it… I just wasn’t interested”, and “I just don’t have time to read this stuff! I have too much other work.”

But let’s be honest: some of those books really are classic, I usually never started reading, and I ended up spending more time reading sparknotes than if I just would have read the book in the first place.

Maybe it is just teenage rebelliousness. After all I work with countless young people that enjoy reading, they just don’t like to be told what to do.

Maybe it is just an attention span thing. Face it: SnapChat feels so much more interesting to most 17 year olds than a book.

It is ironic to consider all of this information when I look back. Now if I get any time off of work one of the first things I do is grab a book and start to devour it. Whether it is fiction, non-fiction, or… the terror… a classic, there is so much to be gained.

So below I have a starter list of what I have been reading in the last year. Books that have changed my worldview, my perspective, and my will for existence. By no means can I vouch for the fact that these are the top books of all-time.

They aren’t even that for me.

However when it comes to reading for growth: some of these have been life-changing.

  1. The Alchemist by: Paulo Coelho: I have had this book recommended to me on several occasions over time, however, it tended to always slip down the list for some reason. When I finally sat down to read this during a recent tropical vacation: I could not put it down. Like… not even kidding… I read this in under a day.

    The basic story follows a young man through his journey to achieve his “personal legend”. In one sense it is a coming of age story. In another it is a story about overcoming obstacles. In yet another it is the one of the most exquisite pieces of literature I have ever read.

    If you have ever had some sense of doubt in yourself, your capabilities, or the attainability of your goals: READ THIS BOOK. It is not very long. It came out in the early 1990s, so you can find it used very easily. But please, just READ THIS BOOK.

  2. You Are a Badass by: Jen Sincero: While this is certainly a trendy pick right now, and I tend to shy away from books that I feel were named or designed to market quick attention, I cannot recommend this book enough. Sincero’s work of non-fiction is life advice for people that are very anti-life advice. Unlike your traditional beam me up-self help-life coach garbage, Sincero is very informal in a way that makes her message incredibly readable and effective.

    As I read i was marking pages like crazy to return to later, was sending excerpts to friends, and rereading chapters (my 17 year old self would have cringed at that thought). Still, reading this book just felt like you were sitting down with a friend and they were giving you the exact advice that you need for your particular existential crisis.

  3. Anything Malcolm Gladwell: Really specific I know. I have read several of Gladwell’s books at this time, but I have been in a significant kick of revisiting his works lately. If you have never read Gladwell before, I will admit he is not for everyone. Yet his ability to take deep-rooted sociological and psychological topics from the real world, and explain them in a way that casual reader “x” can understand them, is impressive.

    Now, I have not read the entire Gladwell collection, BUT if I had to choose a favorite it would probably be Outliers… or Blink…. or… you get the point! Definitely not for the frivolous reading day. HOWEVER, if you are looking to think, expand, and grow: check out Gladwell.

  4. The Kindness Diaries by: Leon Logothetis: WARNING: READ WITH TISSUES.
    During my entire young life I was never the person to cry during movies. Prior to the age of 25 I can only recall crying in the midst of two movies: My Girl and Finding Neverland. Maybe I have just softened in my old age, but this book and the accompanying documentary are a serious cryfest.

    The basic storyline follows the author Leon as he travels around the world relying only on the kindness of strangers. He cannot take any money. Only gas (for his beat-up old motorcycle- inspired by the Motorcycle Diaries), a place to sleep, or food for the night.

    As Leon starts his journey people think there is no way he can make the round trip. After all, look how hateful many believe our world has become. Yet as he continues your trip you will start to see how much love and kindness really does exist in the world.

    The most incredible stories to me (without giving away too much) were that of a homeless man in Pittsburgh (bawling my eyes out), his trip through Bosnia (I am a sucker for historical topics), his attempts to get through the war-torn Middle East, EVERYONE he meets in India (TEARS TEARS TEARS), as well as his time in Cambodia (TEARS mixed with history, mixed with more tears).

    His travels were filmed along the way to create the accompanying documentary; so if you are really not up for reading you can currently find the documentary on Netflix. BUT still have the tissues ready.

    *PS: I recommend reading and watching The Kindness Diaries. The documentary series is definitely worth its weight to really see the stories of the book play out!

 

Life is a series…

Life is a series of events that undoubtedly point us on a very direct path. A series in the sense that each moment correlates to the next;  pointing us in a very given direction. By no means do I believe in a sense of predestination and I have always considered it cliche to suggest that “everything happens for a reason”.  However, when you really stop to look at the course of your life, particularly the moments where you have felt great pain or sadness, it is unreal how they directly point us to that one RIGHT thing.

Then suddenly a moment will come that totally throws your entire perception into a tailspin. When you are standing at the bottom, looking skyward, it is hard not to fathom how you came to this new place. Everyone has a story like this in their own life. In many cases we face moments like this in many aspects of our life from the time we are small children into adulthood. Yet perhaps the most jarring of these moments are those related to relationships.

None of this should come as a surprise when it comes to matters of the heart. Relationships, be it romantic or platonic, in their very essence are elements of our lives that encompass very powerful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

When relationships are good they can result in intoxicating emotions. However, when a moment hits that shakes a significant relationship in our lives, it can be equally devastating.

Ultimately it is moments like this that, although challenging, show our very humanity. For without humanity we would feel no pain or disappointment.

The real challenge comes in learning to move on. In those dark moments, tears streaming down your face, it feels like the pain will never go away. Yet somehow, it happens one day. Maybe it is from meeting someone new, perhaps we find a new hobby or buy a new pet. The ebb and flow of life is a dizzying ride. Yet the resiliency we exhibit illustrates the very power of the hope and emotions we are capable of.

So what is the end of this story?

I can’t say for sure yet.

Maybe there is still hope within this moment that things will get better. Maybe it is time to move on. Before that point can be reached it is worthwhile to start at the beginning.

Life After Change

Once I had finally made up my mind to get divorced about a year ago I did what every self-aware thirty year-old in a moment of crisis would do: I googled it.

Once I had finally made up my mind to get divorced about a year ago I did what every self-aware thirty year-old in a moment of crisis would do: I googled it.

Now I am not sure if that is something worth bragging about, probably not considering the lack of useful information I came across, but that was the only place I could think to look. In the end, the internet helped me find a lawyer, helped me process what paperwork needed to be completed, and to gain a general understanding of what would happen throughout the process. Alas, Google failed me for one of the few moments in my life.

If you have ever been through a divorce, especially at a young age, I am sure you have found yourself in the midst of a similar search. Like, for real, what exactly are you supposed to do when you are 30 (or younger) and divorced?

I am no expert. I don’t have a psychology degree. I am not a therapist. And I have certainly only been down this road once. However, what I have found is that when you go through a divorce, just like any other major life change, you just wake up and live your life.

To say it so simply is not to sell short the pain you feel, or felt, when you experienced your own big-life change. I know that pain very well. I can particularly remember sending my best guy friend a gif of an mushroom cloud right after telling my ex I was ready for him to leave, because that was how I felt about my life in that moment. But guess what? Nothing exploded. Not my house, not my job, not my family, and most importantly in that moment- not my heart.

Now I am not saying that there are not bad days. I still have them occasionally. The dating scene when you are divorced and 30 is rough around the edges, and there is an immense amount of uncertainty that will envelop you for months on end. However, if your friends and family are anything like mine- you will be blown away daily by the love that remains in the world– at a moment when you are feeling very unlovable.

So I guess this will be my story of moving and learning to love again; except this time not a man- myself.