When I was in business school, I got a discounted subscription to the Wall Street Journal. The WSJ is the capitalist bible, chock full of success stories and cautionary tales, required reading for future moguls. Every morning, I’d get my copy, kick back on the sofa…. and fall asleep.
I don’t blame the WSJ for my apnea. It’s the gold standard for business reporting. It’s just that I had zero interest in what it had to say. My area of expertise was marketing research, so O Magazine was far more insightful and applicable to my course of study.
When I finished business school, I didn’t cancel my subscription. I kept it active well into my consulting years. I’d get into the office, read the front page, and suddenly have something really important to do. I’d take it home and put it on the dining room table, and there it would stay until the weekend, when I would “have more time.”
“I don’t have time” is a red herring. When people say that they don’t have time for things, that isn’t really true. They don’t make time for them because they value other activities more. If I suddenly had an extra hour at the end of the day, I would have preferred to clip my cat’s claws to reading the WSJ, and I never clip my cat’s claws.
All the same, they’d call to me every night, “Read me Jeannine, read me.” I would avoid looking at the pile as it grew larger each day. When the pile became large enough to be a fire hazard, I’d put it all in the recycling bin, at night, when no one was watching. When I left the business world, I was really happy to cancel my subscription. I really don’t need to be nagged by a pile of newsprint. People are so much more effective at it.
A few months ago, I had some expiring miles that I redeemed for a subscription to the New Yorker. I didn’t have to pay a dime–as a writer, this is a good thing. Every week I would get the holy grail for contemporary writers in my mailbox. Tom Wolfe, Zadie Smith, David Sedaris. I would learn so much!
I got my first copy, kicked back on the sofa…. and fell asleep. It’s been three months. The pile is getting big.
I know that I’m supposed to revere the New Yorker, and I do. I just don’t enjoy reading it. It’s a wonderful publication–for someone other than me to enjoy. Now, please don’t flame me for not liking the New Yorker. I don’t like a lot of things that I’m expected to, like Sex in the City, goat cheese, and traveling. Sue me. I would never judge you based on your preferences. Okay, I might, but I’d never say so out loud.
I love to read. I devour a new book like a box of Do-si-dos. I have a backlog of books I can’t wait to dig into. So why does that pile of New Yorkers make me feel like a failure?
Because it exists.
Thus, the solution is to make it disappear. So out they go, along with the idea that I really ought to read them. Perhaps when I’m a better writer, I’ll read a future issue and say, “my that was profound. I must have a subscription.” Or perhaps I’ll buy another five books and let the opportunity pass me by. What I won’t do is allow my sense of worth to be damaged one bit by an “ought” that isn’t my own. At least that’s what I ought to do.
What limiting thought will you throw out this week?
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph “Magazines” by Sean Winters © 2007