I bet the majority of twenty- first century teens are unlikely to list books as something that will make them happy. A night out with mates, a trendy new item of clothing, an unusual number of likes on an Instagram post possibly, an invitation to the Matric School dance, but to read a book? I reckon most would say no. I know for sure what my own teen offspring would say.
I had the lucky opportunity of testing this assumption on a group of teens in a school library where I was invited to speak recently. As predicted, only a few raised their hands.
‘Not even on Ipads, or Kindle thingeys?’ I asked, ‘Ipods, maybe?’ They looked at me strangely at this faux pas as I blundered on, trying to weave my way into their collective consciousness .
‘Aah, but I was once a teenager too …, yes, I was… though it probably doesn’t seem like it seeing me here today… (funny how difficult it is to imagine an older person as a young teen isn’t it?) but I promise I was and books were not high on my agenda either. Boyfriend yes, but books? No.
I really cannot remember ever desperately wanting to read.
I decided that my challenge, my talk was to prove that books can equal happiness.
So I related how I wished now that I had read more books as a teen because then perhaps I wouldn’t feel so completely panic –stricken about finding the time to read all the books I want to read now though, in truth over the years, I must have been reading quite a lot since you have to read in order to get through university and especially if you want to study law because law is mostly written in books (a slight exaggeration I conceded though all the legislation was once only found in books and libraries, not on laptops and things and case law which is really law in stories was only found in big books called Law Reports) but this was not really the point of my talk though most probably part of the passion.
The shortened version of my hypothesis went something like this:
1. Whatever you do in life, you have to find the passion to do it. And finding it can be tricky because you don’t always know where to look!
2. Finding the passion will be easier if you read about the experiences of other people doing different things, reading their stories because it’s just not possible to experience everything yourself. But it’s all there in books.
3. And the more you read, the sooner you will understand what it is that becomes your passion.
4. Only once you find your passion, can you start reaching for your goals since we all know that it’s really hard doing something that you are not passionate about.
5. And when you start to reach these goals by doing things that you really want, with passion, well, that surely brings happiness which then equates to a simple proposition:
“READING BOOKS EQUALS? HAPPINESS. (I didn’t need to say it- they called it out on their own.)
But life in abstract can sometimes be confusing so as requested, I spoke more of my own experience of the reading/writing /creative process and how, one day, not that long ago, I realised that I had finally found my passion in a book. And the more I read, the more certain I was that what I really, really wanted was not something I read about in the book, but a book of my own. I wanted to write. I wanted to write a book. I wanted to put down my story too.
The short story? I started writing and read more about writing. And then I just carried on and I wrote and wrote and read and read and edited and edited and finally I gave it to someone else to read and edit and then sent it to some publishers- still, full of passion. And got rejected.
Rejected but not dejected. Why? Because I had found my passion and with that passion, I decided to launch my book and have a party at the same time. A book launching party.
And how did I come to be telling you about it today?
Well. That’s another story for another day.
Books and happiness.