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Thursday, March 04, 2021

Column: Leisurely reading in college is rare, but it's certainly worth the time

Change is natural. Change is good. There are not many emotions greater than the anticipation of change. It gives us everything we can want in life: something to look forward to, to desire. Plans held into the not-too-distant future help us trudge through the monotonous present, giving us an attainable shift out of our current boredom and into something new.

Humans are bored creatures. Since the beginning of time, man has been plagued with the inability to be intellectually stimulated at all times, and thus was forced to pursue other endeavors to satisfy the mind’s hunger. The intellectual and imaginative endeavors of the terminally bored have given us one of humankind’s greatest accomplishments: the arts.

Growing up, life seemed to be nothing but a series of well-structured phases, with each grade acting as a single step on a magnificent staircase toward adulthood. But as much as I’d like for life to simply be a hedonic stair-stepper, I have recently come to the sour realization that the predetermined steps on my staircase are beginning to dissolve in front of me. In high school, it felt like I had an infinite number of roads before me. Some of these roads were safe, some were treacherous. Some were paths well-worn by many before me. Others still had that oily shine of fresh asphalt on a Florida afternoon. It was an exciting and daunting time to be alive, but I now envy my 18-year-old self, standing at one of the forks in life’s road.

Now, as I near the halfway point of my college career, I can see my options growing fewer and fewer with every decision I make. I suppose that is just part of growing older: Each decision’s impact is amplified and severs your access to some other decision down the road. The result? Well, fewer big changes.

Because change keeps the mind on its toes, I now understand the potential boredom of adult life. You finally sink into your job, settle down with a career and get used to it. Responsibilities accumulate, and with them comes a reluctance to risk change.

“At that time, I often thought that if I had to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowing overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it,” wrote Albert Camus in “The Stranger.”

This pseudo-philosophical banter has not been for naught. With the number of paths in my life starting to diminish, I have been forced to face boredom in a new way. In my experience, I believe I have found a temporary cure for a bad case of the doldrums: Reading.

No, not just reading. Sure, we read all the time — from dull textbooks to Donald Trump tweets — but much of our daily reading is either required or simply for informational purposes; nothing to stretch, poke and prod the creative side of our brains.

Whether it’s an actual cure, or just a placebo for lassitude, I have found leisurely and creative reading to be a means of temporary escape from the banality of bus rides to and from campus. Through the magnificent worlds of colorful novels, the creative juices of the right brain start to leak over the monochromatic parts — a refreshing and addictive experience.

College students read a lot, but it’s largely out of necessity and its strong correlation with GPA. We’re all busy and have our life plans before us, but it has taken me too long to see the value in literature as a means of both fighting the tedium of adulthood and giving the brain a much-deserved vacation. Books can help make the seasons of life cycle more smoothly, while also providing a means of intellectual exploration. Try it. You just might like it.

Andrew Hall is a UF business administration junior. His column appears on Fridays.

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