When you develop a life beyond your desk, you have to be willing to let others do the same

Every day I’m consumed by the work I’m doing and the impact I’m having. That intensity, coupled with a desire to learn and grow, causes me to often neglect the importance of sustaining and growing connections with others. It takes a much smaller effort to re-connect with others through a light online browse, but doing it on a larger scale feels a little more real and carries weight more effectively.

I come from an Episcopal, rural background where I rarely saw a street sign or even a nondescript building. Still, the major challenge presented by life in the blue-collar world was finding even a hot dog stand in the weekend heat. I remember where I was and what I was doing each weekend, but looking back, it was frequently because of where I was not. If you plan to build a life that involves something beyond your desk, it requires more than scheduling. You have to be willing to go out into the real world and open up your busy schedule to let others do the same. Reading is part of that process.

In many ways, reading is our lifeblood. It is the glue that keeps life together, the “real” meal, the drink you enjoy with friends, and the opportunity to reflect and get new perspectives through the many books we’ve read and the experiences we’ve had as a reader. I use books as a time machine and an excuse to loosen up my routine. The freedom of reading gives me space to discover and be amazed by new things I’ve read, been a part of, or have witnessed.

The goal for me isn’t just to finish each book, but to enjoy my time in the new world of reading. Doing so allows me to bounce around the pond of knowledge that reading offers, both by discovering new information and collaborating with others in deep conversations. Reading is freeing because it gives me the opportunity to take a book off the shelf, experience it for a few hours, and feel the journey by someone else. It isn’t something people easily do, but this freedom is one of the benefits of connecting with others offline.

There are many ways to find friendship online. For me, reading adds a dimension of being physically involved in our community. That sounds like a contradiction, but I like the idea of supporting and becoming involved in the creation of our world through my interactions with others, even if I am reading a book. My friend Kat Crabtree’s blog, The New Reading Diary, is a perfect example of this. She posts a new book each week, and we have these incredibly lively conversations about it. The writing is brisk, but just beneath that approach is the important reminder that we are writers, and that this is our job. As I reflect on the book I recently read, I want to participate in this conversation with the same enthusiasm as when I worked on the narrative. We’re sharing the work, and it’s a conversation that becomes very real and internal.

A reading community is a reminder of the fact that, as human beings, we can find motivation and information without distance. I feel the need to get outside of my comfort zone and introduce myself to people I don’t know, and that’s what reading can do. It allows me to connect with people I’ve known for a while and meet new ones, but it also reminds me that we are connected in ways beyond words and facts.

Readers and writers, you are more than mere words and facts. We connect offline through a shared commitment to tell meaningful stories that enrich our lives. Having that anchor to the reader, then, as a requirement of making that connection really does connect us.

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