A bit before Thanksgiving of November 2015, I came across an Instagram post by a user named, Curtissa Odi. In all honesty, I have no idea how – we had no mutual friends, did not live near each other, etc. As I look back now, I think the only way I could have stumbled upon her page would be through a hashtag search; but alas, I still have no idea what hashtag that was. Yet, the post from someone I then considered a complete stranger, inspired me in an unbelievable way.
The instagram post was a picture of a stack of books featuring titles such as Lioness Arising, Kingdom Woman, The Little Black Book of Success, and Destiny. The caption under her Instagram post read, “You must daily choose to educate yourself, to INVEST in who you are. I am determined to be found ready for my purpose. I am increasing my capacity to receive daily.” Her words struck me and caused me to question whether or not they were truly applicable to my own life. When I later realized that Curtissa was a Christian and full-time student pursuing a degree as well as certificate, her words impacted me to a greater degree. I could neither easily excuse myself, declaring “Oh, well, her life is not relatable” nor dismiss the relevance of her words by saying, “She must have time.” I was stuck…stuck yet inspired.
I realized that I wanted to invest in myself too; I wanted to educate myself. Curtissa had proven that it was possible. She used a hashtag that will always stick with me: #pickupadangbook. From that moment, I decided I would do just that…pick up a book. I did. Although I had a first draft of my research paper due for my upcoming final paper, I decided to carve out sometime during my Thanksgiving Break to read. Crazy enough, the book I chose was Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I never heard of it; but, when I came upon it while in Barnes and Noble, I felt led to read it. It was Earth-shattering to my faith journey. It really made me stop to not only think about love in my relationship with Christ but also think about how I lived out the Christian principle of love. Furthermore, it challenged me to evaluate whether I had become nonchalant in living out my faith in the radical way that the Bible commands.
From that moment on, pleasure reading stuck. I made it a mission to read throughout the year, no matter how little time I had or what assignment was due. I made the plan to dedicate at least an hour or so everyday to reading a book. Though I didn’t set a goal for the number of books I read, the more I read, the more I realized how crucial it was for me to be reading. So, it became a cycle which took on a life of it’s own. I ended up reading and finishing 25 personal books in 2016. They ranged in topic: christian living, education, racial matters: (racial injustice and racial reconciliation), fiction, self-help, etc.
As I read, I became inspired, encouraged, and empowered. The books allowed me to gain a vast amount of information on topics I had never really taken the time to consider or study. On the other hand, the more I read, the more I became dissatisfied. As I learned more, it became obvious that a number of the leaders around me were not reading.
To be completely honest, a substantial amount of the texts I read were religious and as I began gaining more knowledge it was evident that some religious leaders were not aware of certain theories, interpretations, ideas, or texts. I began to question who was challenging themselves intellectually and who was educating themselves on historical/current events in order to minister to others better. As a believer, leader of two religious organizations, and individual interested in full-time ministry, I determined I would not be one of those leaders. My staff worker’s words, “Leaders are readers” rang true.
I would be lying if I said there was never a moment of difficulty in 2016. I struggled reading as much as I wanted to during the summer while doing my independent study It definitely was harder to be consistently reading personal books as I daily delved into research books. Additionally, my transition from off-campus housing to on-campus living this fall made it a bit harder to dedicate as much time to reading.
Yet, I was determined. So determined.
Reading allowed me to educate myself outside of the classroom. I got to not only choose what I wanted to learn but also expand on things I had already learned. For example, I got to read a book entitled, Too Heavy A Yoke, which built on my interests in Black feminism, Black women’s narratives, feminist theology, and Christianity. As I read, I realized the narration of my own experience. Reading also became my primary way of relieving stress. It became a means of self-care. As I relaxed for an hour or so, I temporarily gave myself some form of a break. I found it relaxing to get loss in someone else’s story rather than worrying about my own life and the many items on my to-do list. Furthermore, I indulged in my necessary introvert alone time, as I took a moment to escape those around me, sit by myself, and become engrossed in the text I was reading. I enjoyed using my mind but not doing so at the same fast pace or with the same level of concentration. In addition, I found it relaxing to focus on something that was of interest to me – a topic, an author, a story, etc.
I’ll end with Curtissa’s words:
“You must DAILY CHOOSE to EDUCATE yourself, to INVEST in who you are. I am determined to be found ready for my purpose. I am increasing my capacity to receive daily.” (emphasis my own)
Though we have the privilege of learning inside the classroom, I think our education can extend beyond that space. Our interests, our passions, and our future are in our own hands. Books allow us to invest in these elements of our self. They comfort us, challenge us, and answer the questions we have posed while raising more. They feed the deep inner appetites of our soul or push us to grow and become better people.
Amidst all that we do, I’m challenging myself and you, to invest. A daily investment of 15 minutes would accumulate so much lifetime profit…with added interest ;).
Written for and featured on: HerCampus- Amherst (http://go.shr.lc/2kMRMtT)