Illuminated by a turquoise colored side-table lamp, my mother sprawls across her bed, readjusting her signature gray shirt with the words “Tepper Business School” outlined in a bright crimson across her chest. The lustrous light accentuates her chestnut highlights, and her silky hair falls from her claw clip, but she doesn’t seem to notice. A smile tugs the corners of her mouth as she reaches for Knuffle Bunny, my favorite book, from my pink, sticker-covered bookshelf. Although she is visibly exhausted from her seemingly perpetual day at work, she reads out each sentence with the same poise and enthusiasm as she would present at a team meeting. As a then 4-year-old, I would sit criss-cross next to my mom, hands clutching my yellow crab stuffed toy and eyes widening as I memorized each picture in the book and strung together each letter on the page until I could finally read. 

We still continue this daily tradition today, although we both have more on our plates. I still lay down next to my mother, arm propped up against a beige pillow, listening as her soothing voice floats through the air and into my expectant ears. Although my limbs are no longer pea-sized and I have surpassed my mother in height, the kinetic bond that draws us together can never be broken even as our ages, abilities and responsibilities increase. We’ve covered timeless classics like Little Women to modern history texts like Sapiens and our hand-picked selections have not only sharpened my brain, but have also made me the emerging writer I am today. When I open up a Google Doc or fish out a piece of paper, words just flow out of my mind and onto the page. Writing has become my form of meditation as well as reflection, and has helped me come to terms with unaddressed boulders I’ve faced.

Reading has aided me in interpreting and understanding people’s expressions and demeanors more precisely. Because a reader must pay special attention to the mannerisms and descriptions carefully laid out by the author, this translates to me being more perceptive and focused in my day-to-day life. My collection of books even saved me from being lonely during the Covid-19 pandemic, where I wasn’t able to communicate with my friends. As I was transported into a vast sea of characters and locations, I stopped focusing on the misery that clouded everyone’s lives at the time. When I was in elementary school, I would occasionally wake up early on Saturday mornings just to read in silence with the tranquil company of blue jays chirping. I’ve been known to sit in Barnes & Noble and feast on the array of books lining the golden shelves, while others shop in a crowded, frenzied mall.

With the constant use of technology today, I’ve been able to resist having a phone even at 14, and instead fill my free hours with a cup of milky black tea and a compelling book. It’s the same as Instagram or TikTok except for the fact that readers get the whole story — from start to finish — for each character, and they get to visualize the character.

To me, all readers and writers are mini-psychologists because they have this innate ability to understand characters and their hopes, dreams and fears, but at the same time process the author’s intention behind the piece. That’s why I find reading and writing so worthwhile.

No matter where I live, work, or study, I will never be satisfied without a book to get me through the days. 

I know two things for sure: I am a reader and a writer. I can’t control everything that happens to me in the future, but I know that even when I’m frail and old, there will still be a book on my side-table, waiting for me to flick through the pages.