When I was eight, I tried to read my first adult book. I seem to remember it being at least 800 pages long, although Goodreads claims it is just over 400 pages, so…there’s that. It had been given to me by my grandmother and was part of an enormous series called The Work and the Glory (consisting of 9 books, the longest of which actually is nearly 800 pages). I was sitting in the car with it on my lap as we were driving home from my grandmother’s. My mom was filling the car with gas. I was waiting. I hadn’t brought a book with me, and with a shiny new book sitting on my lap, what is a true bibliophile to do?
I started reading it. I didn’t get very far. It remained on my bookshelf, unread.
I came back to it a few years later, successfully reading it and the rest of the series. They were even some of my favorite books for a while.
When I was twelve, I checked out Treasure Island and another children’s classic (I think it was A Secret Garden, but I’m not sure) from the library. I was not ready for them and could not bring myself to read more than a few pages before giving it up as a bad job.
The funny thing is that Treasure Island must technically be at a lower reading level than the adult series I read a younger age, but that didn’t matter. It seemed utterly foreign to me and I felt I had no hope of ever being able to understand it.* I had some sort of idea that the ability to understand and appreciate certain kinds of literature was a kind of innate talent-like a gene that I just simply hadn’t been born with. This, of course, is not true. It was simply not the right time for me to read it-just like it wasn’t the right time for me to read The Work and the Glory when I first tried. I somehow implicitly understood that better at age eight than I did several years later.
I’ve thought a lot about coming to pieces of literature at the right time. Having a favorite when perhaps it’s only a favorite because of something small that spoke to you in that particular moment. The difference it can make to read a book at just the right moment for you.
It’s the same thing in the “real world.” There’s a right and a wrong time for everything. The trick is waiting for the right time to roll around.
And that can be aggravating as all get-out.
More often than I would care to admit, I am guilty of peeking ahead to the end of a book to see what happens, or to see if my guess is correct, spoiling the ending.**
Surely I can’t be the only one who wishes I could sometimes do that with my life? To be able to peek ahead, just a few months, or a year? After all, if there’s a Hagrid waiting to tell me on page 273 of my life that actually Hogwarts made a mistake and I should have received my letter years ago, wouldn’t that be nice to know now?
But then I have to slow down and remind myself:
Right now is the right time for something.
And I need to enjoy that something now before it becomes the right time for something else.
The alternative is waiting for a golden ticket that is never guaranteed to arrive. Or putting off the moment you will finally allow yourself to smile at what’s in front of you, the way you put off that book you know you’ll love.
It takes some degree of trust to allow yourself that moment to smile. Maybe that’s part of why it’s so difficult.
Trust and, I suppose, a little bit of patience.
*For the record, I did come back to Treasure Island…but not until my mid-twenties.
**Also for the record, I do this much less often than I used to.