Do Academics Read for Fun?

I am very tired.

This is my last semester of college and I am very tired. I’m taking a full course load, applying for jobs, and writing a senior honors thesis. I’m in the midst of preparing for the rest of my life and the rest of my life will probably look very similar to this. I will likely be in academics, so that means classes, papers, reading, and writing are going to be what I do pretty much forever. And I’m okay with that! I’m even pretty excited about it. I mean, how many other people get to learn new things about the subjects they’re most passionate about for money? I love what I do, and as tired as I am, I love sitting down and doing research on 17th century poetry every day. Even when I’m stumped like I am right now, I couldn’t be more excited to do this for the rest of my life.

But do academics get to read for pleasure? I ask this because I haven’t read fiction not for my literature classes since this summer. I read only half of my goal of books for the year last year. Nearly every book I read last year was for my thesis or a class. As much as I love literature, I miss being able to sit down and lose myself in a book without examining every sentence for underlying themes and different meanings. I miss being able to laugh and cry at a book without thinking about the paper I have to write on it in a few weeks time. I miss being able to just sit down and read a silly, fun, piece of fiction that isn’t an American classic. I don’t want to read serious books all the time. I hate Faulkner, Fitzgerald gets boring, Nabokov gives me headaches.

Am I a traitor English majors for even thinking these things? There are people in my classes who have read everything Kierkegaard has ever written and I have to stop myself from rolling my eyes every time his name is mentioned. Sometimes I just don’t want to think when I read. I just want to get lost in the world that the author creates and forget that I have tests and responsibilities and everything else I have to think about.

Is this my life from now on? Have I chosen a path that requires all my focus and energy to be on the academic subject I’ve chosen forever? Am I doomed to be consumed by metaphors, existentialism, explications, and analysis until I retire? I chose English because I love to read. I don’t want to lose sight of the love and passion that got me to this point.

I want to be an academic, but I want to be an academic who reads for fun.

But for now I’m just very tired.

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