Relaxing and Rediscovering Childhood Joy


As a small child, I loved nothing better than reading. I read everything I could get my hands on, as fast as I could. I wasn’t allowed flashlights in my room, as my parents knew I’d just use them to read under the covers. At one point, they even took my alarm clock, since I was using its display as a lamp.

I loved to read.

Then in late middle school, I got my first computer, and everything changed. Instead of staying up late reading about elves and spaceships and battles, I stayed up reading about Linux and programming and syscalls. I still stayed up late, but had trouble staying interested in the novels that used to keep me spell-bound.

This state of affairs continued through college. I would work on programming homework or fiddle with programs until crazy hours of the night, but could not stay focused on a book for any significant amount of time. I tried buying a Kindle to see if I could leverage my love of technology to revive my interest in books. The Kindle wound up rooted and found great use for textbooks and reference manuals, but didn’t see much leisure-time reading. It bothered me that something I used to take such enjoyment from no longer held any joy for me.

A few weeks ago, I decided to do something about this. A coworker had recommended what looked to be a fantastic book, and I decided I’d get through it in a weekend. I hid my computer, put my most comfortable chair on my rear porch, located some good beer, and dove in. Much to my surprise, I found I had no difficulty staying engaged. Approaching the activity with front-loaded intent had worked magic.

In the few weeks since then, I’ve read many more books than in any year of recent memory. I’ve been reading at least a few chapters of a book before bed, sleeping better, and actually waking up with or before my alarm.

More important than the act of reading, however, has been getting away from a computer and relaxing. Though it took me a long time to realize it, sitting in front of a glowing screen all day has been a constant low-level source of stress. Getting away from it while keeping my brain engaged in ways it is not normally used at work has been exceptionally refreshing, and has even made me more productive at work.

Are there any activities you used to do as a kid that might pry you away from a computer? Playing chess? Playing checkers? Basketball? Try revisiting them. You might be surprised at the positive impact like I was. Let me know in the comments if you have any success.